Every parent thinks that their child is gifted. In a sense, they’re all correct—after all, kids are amazing. But if you’re wondering whether your child is naturally brilliant, science could help answer that question. Here are a few curious (and scientifically plausible) ways to determine whether you’re raising a little Einstein.
1. They’re your firstborn.
A study published in the Journal of Human Resources makes the case that firstborn children typically perform better than their siblings at an early age. As a result, firstborn children might be more successful later in life. Some research has “found that parents changed their behaviour as subsequent children were born. They offered less mental stimulation to younger siblings [and] also took part in fewer activities such as such as reading with the child, crafts and playing musical instruments.”
2. Their mom is smart.
Moms, pat yourselves on the back; genes related to cognitive capabilities appear to be carried on the X chromosome, according to a study from the University of Ulm in Germany. A separate study from the Medical Research Council also found that the mother’s IQ was an excellent predictor of her offspring’s IQs. On average, children had only about a 15-point difference from their moms.
3. The baby was born in the country.
More importantly, the mother spent most of her pregnancy away from urban pollutants. “A mother’s exposure to urban air pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can adversely affect a child’s intelligence quotient or IQ,” writes the National Institutes of Health. “The study…found that children exposed to high levels of PAHs in New York City had full scale and verbal IQ scores that were 4.31 and 4.67 points lower than those of less exposed children.” The researchers noted that the decrease in full-scale IQ was similar to what scientists would expect to see with low-level lead exposure. More research needs to be completed to verify the findings, but if you’re pregnant, it’s probably not a bad idea to get some fresh (unpolluted) air every once in a while.
4. They have big heads.
Yes, we’re serious. According to research from a British health resource group called UK Biobank, babies with larger-than-average heads are more likely to graduate with degrees. Those big-headed tykes also scored higher on verbal–numerical reasoning tests. “These results demonstrate substantial shared genetic aetiology (set of causes) between brain size, cognitive ability and educational attainment,” wrote the researchers in a study published in Molecular Psychiatry.
Remember, while a child’s makeup is important, functional intelligence isn’t all about hitting the genetic lottery.
Only about 40 to 60 percent of intelligence is hereditary, and your parenting will make a big difference in your kid’s academic performance. Experts recommend focusing on the process of learning, rather than praising kids for their natural ability. For more on that concept, check out this excellent piece by Carol S. Dweck for Scientific American.