Epigenetics is the study, in the field of genetics, of cellular and physiological phenotypic trait variations that are caused by external or environmental factors that switch genes on and off. This affects how cells read genes instead of being caused by changes in the DNA sequence. Hence, epigenetic research seeks to describe dynamic alterations in the transcriptional potential of a cell. These alterations may or may not be heritable, although the use of the term “epigenetic” to describe processes that are not heritable, is controversial. Unlike genetics based on changes to the DNA sequence (the genotype), the changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype of epigenetics have other causes, thus use of the prefix epi- (Greek: επί- over, outside of, around).
The term “epigenetic” has also been used in developmental psychology to describe psychological development as the result of an ongoing, bi-directional interchange between heredity and the environment. Interactivist ideas of development have been discussed in various forms and under various names throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. An early version was proposed, among the founding statements in embryology, by Karl Ernst von Baer and popularized by Ernst Haeckel. A radical epigenetic view (physiological epigenesis) was developed by Paul Wintrebert. Another variation, probabilistic epigenesis, was presented by Gilbert Gottlieb in 2003. This view encompasses all of the possible developing factors on an organism. How they not only influence the organism and each other, but how the organism also influences its own development.
The developmental psychologist Erik Erikson used the term epigenetic principle in his book Identity: Youth and Crisis (1968). He used it to encompass the notion that we develop through an unfolding of our personality in predetermined stages. That our environment and surrounding culture influence how we progress through these stages. This biological unfolding in relation to our socio- cultural settings is done in stages of psychosocial development. Where “progress through each stage is in part determined by our success, or lack of success, in all the previous stages.”
Kicked Out of Heaven Vol. I
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Daily Star: Epigenetics show childhood trauma can change your DNA | Daily Star.