Are you an especially clever person? New research suggests that you might want to thank your mother for that. According to a recent genetic breakthrough, a mother’s intelligence may weigh much more heavily than the father’s when it comes to a child’s natural intellectual abilities.
As you may know, women carry two X chromosomes, while men carry one X and one Y. These chromosomes are present in each cell. They contain genetic information that makes us who we are. Conditioned genes are believed to become active only when they come from a specific parent – in this case, the mother. Intelligence is now thought to be largely carried in the X chromosome and conditioned to be active only when it comes from the mother’s genetic material.
Scientists first tested this theory through the use of genetically modified mice. They found that the mice who received primarily maternal genetic material had larger and more active brains, but smaller bodies. Those who received more paternal genetic information showed the opposite effect. Their brains were much smaller, but their bodies were larger and stronger.
Upon taking a closer look, researchers identified six areas of the brain that contained genes from only one parent. Interestingly, they found no paternal genetic material in the cerebral cortex. This area of the brain is responsible for many aspects of intelligence, such as language, logic and reasoning, and advanced thinking. Its genetic makeup was found to come exclusively from the mother.
Scientists in Scotland came by similar findings in a much different way. Researchers followed over twelve thousand young people as they reached adulthood. Each year, they would interview the subjects and gauge their intellectual development. The researchers accounted for many factors, including gender. ethnic background, and education. In the end, they conclusively found that the subject’s IQ was most accurately predicted by the intelligence of their mother.
Of course, a person’s intelligence is not simply a matter of genetics. There are many things a parent can do to encourage intellectual growth. Read to your children. Let them get lost in an art project. Travel. Send them to music lessons. Learn about another culture together. Teach them to cook. Build a tree house together. Make a habit of eating dinner as a family. Engage them in political and philosophical conversation.
In the end, our genetic information itself is not nearly as important as what we do with it. A father who spends quality time with his children is just as valuable as a mother who contributes favorable genetic material. A mother who passes on great genes but does nothing to help them flourish is not as intellectually stimulating as one who does the opposite. Do everything you can for your children. Hope for the best. Remember that good genes cannot stand on their own in the complex world that makes up our children’s upbringing.