Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Being poor can suppress children's genetic potentials, study finds

Date:
January 11, 2011
Source:
University of Texas at Austin
Summary:
Growing up poor can suppress a child's genetic potential to excel cognitively even before the age of 2, according to research from psychologists in Texas.

Growing up poor can suppress a child's genetic potential to excel cognitively even before the age of 2, according to research from psychologists at The University of Texas at Austin.

Half of the gains that wealthier children show on tests of mental ability between 10 months and 2 years of age can be attributed to their genes, the study finds. But children from poorer families, who already lag behind their peers by that age, show almost no improvements that are driven by their genetic makeup.

The study of 750 sets of twins by Assistant Professor Elliot Tucker-Drob does not suggest that children from wealthier families are genetically superior or smarter. They simply have more opportunities to reach their potential.

These findings go to the heart of the age-old debate about whether "nature" or "nurture" is more important to a child's development. They suggest the two work together and that the right environment can help children begin to reach their genetic potentials at a much earlier age than previously thought.

"You can't have environmental contributions to a child's development without genetics. And you can't have genetic contributions without environment," says Tucker-Drob, who is also a research associate in the university's Population Research Center. "Socioeconomic disadvantages suppress children's genetic potentials."

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, was co-authored by K. Paige Harden of The University of Texas at Austin, Mijke Rhemtulla of The University of Texas at Austin and the University of British Columbia, and Eric Turkheimer and David Fask of the University of Virginia.

The researchers looked at test results from twins who had taken a version of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development at about 10 months and again at about 2 years of age. The test, which is widely used to measure early cognitive ability, asks children to perform such tasks as pulling a string to ring a bell, putting three cubes in a cup and matching pictures.

At 10 months, there was no difference in how the children from different socioeconomic backgrounds performed. By 2 years, children from high socioeconomic background scored significantly higher than those from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

In general, the 2-year-olds from poorer families performed very similarly to one another. That was true among both fraternal and identical twins, suggesting that genetic similarity was unrelated to similarities in cognitive ability. Instead, their environments determine their cognitive success.

Among 2-year-olds from wealthier families, identical twins (who share identical genetic makeups) performed very similarly to one another. But fraternal twins were not as similar -- suggesting their different genetic makeups and potentials were already driving their cognitive abilities.

"Our findings suggest that socioeconomic disparities in cognitive development start early," says Tucker-Drob. "For children from poorer homes, genetic influences on changes in cognitive ability were close to zero. For children from wealthier homes, genes accounted for about half of the variation in cognitive changes."

The study notes that wealthier parents are often able to provide better educational resources and spend more time with their children but does not examine what factors, in particular, help their children reach their genetic potentials. Tucker-Drob is planning follow-up studies to examine that question.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas at Austin. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. M. Tucker-Drob, M. Rhemtulla, K. P. Harden, E. Turkheimer, D. Fask. Emergence of a Gene x Socioeconomic Status Interaction on Infant Mental Ability Between 10 Months and 2 Years. Psychological Science, 2010; DOI: 10.1177/0956797610392926

Cite This Page:

University of Texas at Austin. "Being poor can suppress children's genetic potentials, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110110142004.htm>.
University of Texas at Austin. (2011, January 11). Being poor can suppress children's genetic potentials, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110110142004.htm
University of Texas at Austin. "Being poor can suppress children's genetic potentials, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110110142004.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

EU Ministers and Experts Meet to Discuss Ebola Reponse

EU Ministers and Experts Meet to Discuss Ebola Reponse

AFP (Sep. 15, 2014) The European Commission met on Monday to coordinate aid that the EU can offer to African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. Duration: 00:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite The Risks, Antibiotics Still Overprescribed For Kids

Despite The Risks, Antibiotics Still Overprescribed For Kids

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) A new study finds children are prescribed antibiotics twice as often as is necessary. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Respiratory Virus Spreads To Northeast, Now In 21 States

Respiratory Virus Spreads To Northeast, Now In 21 States

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) The respiratory virus Enterovirus D68, which targets children, has spread from the Midwest to 21 states. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins