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Kids Get Their Intelligence From Their Moms, Research Suggests

Ryan Ford
Ryan Ford
May 27, 2021

Kids aren't exactly little clones of ourselves, but it's often easy to see where the little similarities come from. I know that I, for example, got my hairline from my mom's side of the family, but my voice is so like my dad's that my friends have carried on phone conversations with him thinking they were talking to me. Genetics are weird like that.

The origins of less obvious traits are harder to track down, of course.

Researchers have been trying to figure out where the heck kids get their smarts from for decades, and some think they finally have an answer: from moms.

Unsplash | Nicole Honeywill

You would think that fathers and mothers would contribute equally, but according to research compiled by Psychology Spot, it looks like kids can attribute their intelligence more to their moms than their dads.

There are a few reasons why researchers believe kids get their intelligence from their moms.

Unsplash | Sai De Silva

For one thing, studies report that the genes that affect intelligence are located on the X chromosome, and because women have two X chromosomes, kids are twice as likely to get those genes from their moms.

Another study following kids in Glasgow over several years of development, looking at many different factors, from education to socio-economic status, found that the best predictor of a child's intelligence was their mother's IQ.

However, the idea of kids inheriting their intelligence from their mothers isn't without controversy.

Unsplash | Nathan Dumlao

For one thing, there's a whole lot more to intelligence and development than genetics, and the mother plays a big role there as well.

Because mothers tend to be the primary caregiver in many, many families, they have the most opportunity to influence a child's intellectual and emotional development. For that reason alone it would be only natural for a smart mother to raise a smart kid.

That's not to say that fathers can't play a big role in their child's intellectual upbringing as well.

Unsplash | Sebastián León Prado

As Psychology Spot notes, children inherit about 40-60% of their intelligence. The rest comes from environment, stimulation, and personal characteristics. So dads who are there, who challenge their kids, and who stimulate problem solving in their kids are greatly contributing to their intelligence.

And remember, brains are incredibly complex things — there will always be genes contributed by the dad at work when a child does any kind of rational thinking.

Still, the whole idea of how intelligence gets passed along to kids is problematic.

Unsplash | NeONBRAND

As Forbes points out, even how intelligence gets defined is questionable, and there aren't really genes "for" intelligence as much as there are genes that affect intelligence, the majority — not all — of which come from the mother.

h/t: Psychology Spot, Forbes