Do we really inherit our intelligence from our moms?


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A lot of studies supposedly claim that intelligence comes from our mothers – but is that really true?

Several studies reportedly claim that intelligence genes are found in the X chromosomes. With moms having two X chromosomes and dads having only one, quite a number of these reports claim that this is the main reason why children are twice as likely to inherit their intelligence from their moms.

Do we really inherit our intelligence from our moms
Photo credit: Forbes

According to an article on the Reader’s Digest, the Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit conducted an extensive study back in 2014. The researchers interviewed 12,686 people ranging in age from 14 to 22, gathering data of the children’s IQ, race, education, and socio-economic status.

Based on data from the study, the researchers concluded that the mother’s IQ is the best predictor of intelligence.

The study further suggested that intelligent moms raise intelligent kids because these moms are often the ones who provide their children’s early education. As the child’s primary caregiver and first teacher, the mother is instrumental in helping their children develop the building blocks for intelligence in their brains.

But critical brain development can also be ‘influenced’ by dads, with the study claiming that ‘environmental factors’ like a dad’s input can also help improve a child’s intelligence.

Debunking the ‘Study’

In an article in Forbes, however, science and health journalist Emily Willingham debunks the ‘study’.

According to Wellingham, while mothers do carry two X chromosomes, there is no guarantee that both chromosomes carry the genes for high IQ because these chromosomes are not identical. Plus, while moms have two chromosomes, remember that they also got one of those chromosomes from their dads – and who’s to say that the ones her children get are only the ones she inherited from her mom?

Do we really inherit our intelligence from our moms
Photo credit: Pixabay

“Mothers generally pass only one X to their children (after the two X chromosomes engage a little genetic swapping themselves), and those children in turn receive the second sex chromosome (X or Y) from their fathers. Whatever is on the X can pass from mother to child or father to (usually) daughter, but the two X chromosomes the mother has aren't the same and don't at all automatically double the odds of inheriting a specific variant,” Wellingham explained.

Plus, she pointed out that the studies often cited in these articles are decades old. Moreover, intelligence is complicated.

“So, let’s get this out of the way: Intelligence is complicated. While maybe half of our intelligence as we currently define and measure it is inherited, that proportion is in turn fractured into many many genetic variants scattered across our genomes. These variants operate together in various ways to form what we view as intelligence,” Wellingham added.

This means that we can’t just view intelligence as so simplistic that it can be determined by just getting an X chromosome from your mom. After all, everyone inherits an X chromosome – and that chromosome contains a lot of information, not just a specific measure of intelligence.

— Joy Adalia, The Summit Express


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