Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Children's genetic potentials are subdued by poverty: Effects show by age 2

Date:
January 31, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Children from poorer families do worse in school, are less likely to graduate from high school, and are less likely to go to college. A new study finds that these differences appear surprisingly early: by the age of 2. It's not a genetic difference. Instead, something about the poorer children's environment is keeping them from realizing their genetic potentials.

New research suggests that something about the environment of children from poor families is keeping them from realizing their genetic potentials.
Credit: iStockphoto

Children from poorer families do worse in school, are less likely to graduate from high school, and are less likely to go to college. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that these differences appear surprisingly early: by the age of 2. It's not a genetic difference. Instead, something about the poorer children's environment is keeping them from realizing their genetic potentials.

Past research has found that a gap between poor children and children from wealthier families opens up early in life, even before children enter formal education. "Poor kids aren't even doing as well in terms of school readiness -- sounding out letters and doing other things that you would expect to be relevant to early learning," says Elliot M. Tucker-Drob of the University of Texas at Austin, lead author of the paper. He and his colleagues, Mijke Rhemtulla and K. Paige Harden of the University of Texas at Austin and Eric Turkheimer and David Fask of the University of Virginia, wanted to look even earlier -- to see if they could find these differences in infants.

The researchers used data on about 750 pairs of fraternal and identical twins, from all over the country. The children's mental abilities were tested at 10 months of age and again when they were 2 years old, with tasks like pulling a string to ring a bell, placing three cubes in a cup, matching pictures, and sorting pegs by color. The children's socioeconomic status was determined based on parents' educational attainment, occupations, and family income.

At 10 months of age, children from poor families performed just as well as children from wealthier families. It was over the next 14 months that a gap emerged. By 2 years of age, children from wealthier families were scoring consistently higher than the children from poorer families.

The researchers went on to examine the extent to which genes were involved in the test scores. Among the 2-year-olds from wealthier families, identical twins, who share all of their genes, had much more similar tests scores than fraternal twins, who share only half of their genes, thus indicating that genes were influencing their tests scores. However, among 2-year-olds from poorer families, identical twins scored no more similar to one another than fraternal twins, suggesting that genes were not influencing their test scores. The researchers concluded that something about the poor children's home life was suppressing their potentials for cognitive development.

This study didn't look specifically into why wealthy children improve more. It could be that poorer parents may not have the time or resources to spend playing with their children in stimulating ways. A common goal of education policy is to decrease the achievement gap between poorer and wealthier children, says Tucker-Drob. "And I think the first step to achieving this goal is understanding the basis of these disparities." He's working now on understanding exactly what it is that parents are doing differently -- analyzing videos of poorer and wealthier parents interacting with their children, for example, to see if he can find differences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. 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; 22 (1): 125 DOI: 10.1177/0956797610392926

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Children's genetic potentials are subdued by poverty: Effects show by age 2." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110131153532.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, January 31). Children's genetic potentials are subdued by poverty: Effects show by age 2. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110131153532.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Children's genetic potentials are subdued by poverty: Effects show by age 2." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110131153532.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) It’s an unusual condition with a colorful name. Kids with “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome see sudden distortions in objects they’re looking at or their own bodies appear to change size, a lot like the main character in the Lewis Carroll story. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Scientists have long called choline a “brain booster” essential for human development. Not only does it aid in memory and learning, researchers now believe choline could help prevent mental illness. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in humans. Now a new treatment using the patient’s own tumor could help slow down its progression and help patients live longer. Video provided by Ivanhoe
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