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29th Apr 2019

Research shows that children inherit intelligence from their mothers

Who's not surprised?


We inherit a lot from our parents – and even grandparents. I look at my own two children and in their faces and expressions and even the way they walk see traces of myself, my husband, my mum, his mum and both our fathers too. It’s both wonderful and sometimes a little scary.

When it comes to intelligence, though, things get a little interesting. Because now studies have shown that it is mothers, to a much larger extent than fathers, that are responsible for the transmission of the intelligence genes.

Yup, that’s right, guys, your sharp brain comes from your mum.

And while it has been known for some time that intelligence has a hereditary component, until rather recently it was thought that much of it depended on the father as well as on the mother. However, several studies have now revealed that children are more likely to inherit intelligence from the mother because intelligence genes are located on chromosome X.

A 1984 study at the University of Cambridge analyzed the co-evolution of the brain and the conditioning of the genome, to conclude that the maternal genes contribute most to the development of the thought centres in the brain.

A few years later, another study revealed that most of children’s intelligence depends on the X chromosome, and since women have two X chromosomes are twice as likely to inherit the characteristics related to intelligence.

More recently, researchers at the University of Ulm, Germany, studied the genes involved in the brain damage and found that many of these, especially those related to cognitive abilities, were on chromosome X. In fact, what they said was that it is no coincidence that the mental illness is 30% more common in males.

But perhaps, one of the most interesting results comes from an analysis by the Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in the US. In this study, they interviewed 2,686 young people aged between 14 and 22 years over a period of several years.

The researchers took into account several factors, from the colour of the skin and education to socio-economic status, and found that the best predictor of intelligence was indeed the IQ of the mother. In fact, the ratio of young people’s intelligence varied only an average of 15 points from that of their mothers.

Not all genes

According to science, we can assume that as much as 40-60 percent of intelligence is hereditary.

But that also means that the remaining percentage depends on other factors, like environment and stimulation. A strong emotional connection to both mother and father influences both rational thinking function, intuition and emotions in children, and while the IQ you are born with is important, it is not decisive. Having parents who are emotionally present, however, is, and will greatly influence a child’s development and persona.

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