Do We Really Inherit Intelligence From Our Mother? - Step To Health

Do We Really Inherit Intelligence From Our Mother?

It's common to think that intelligence is directly related to genetics; thus we inherit it. Should we continue to think so? Is mom truly responsible for how smart we are?
Do We Really Inherit Intelligence From Our Mother?

Last update: 14 April, 2021

You might have wondered whether you inherit intelligence from your mother or father since people tend to associate this ability with genetics. For this reason, several teams of researchers have decided to investigate the matter.

Some years ago, people thought that intelligence came from the mother, given the bond people have with her from the first moment of life. Also because scientists thought cognitive abilities were on the X chromosome. The mother’s X chromosomes provide more information for the development of thought-associated brain structures.

Experts at the Genetic Literacy Project have decided to make several clarifications regarding these ideas. Let’s look at them below.

What experts say about how you inherit intelligence

In his book Sex Linkage of Intelligence, American scientist Roberth Lehrke suggests that a chunk of the cognitive component of a human being is directly linked to the X chromosome. Also, he proved that women are twice as likely to inherit cognitive traits because they have two X chromosomes.

Lehrke explains that all women have an “unintelligent” and a “very intelligent” X chromosome. However, there may be women with two “really intelligent” X chromosomes, as in the case of the woman with the world’s highest IQ, Marilyn Vos Savant.

In the case of men, the Y chromosome doesn’t have a role in cognition. This means that a Y chromosome together with an “unintelligent” X chromosome may produce a person with an intellectual disability. On the contrary, IQ develops together with a  “very smart” X chromosome.

However, the Genetic Literacy Project makes it clear that the mother plays a key role in the development of intelligence, not just because she contributes X chromosomes, but also because of the type of bond she can develop with her child on many levels: physical, emotional, psychological, etc.

Did you really inherit intelligence from your parents?

You’re reading this article to know whether intelligence comes from the mother since studies show that about 45% to 55% of intelligence is hereditary. That means that a large chunk of intelligence develops if there are appropriate personal and family conditions.

Other factors that influence intelligence

A child's brain suggesting intelligence is inherited from his mother.

1. Values

Perseverance, effort, discipline, commitment, and interest in learning are factors that influence a child’s intelligence as time goes on.

2. Autonomy

A child’s independence is essential as it helps the cognitive process run smoothly. The child needs to define and determine the things they want without being forced to make decisions under pressure.

3. Confidence

A child who’s confident in their skills can solve any problem that arises in their life, thus developing analytical skills in any situation.

4. Emotional bond

Children who are more attached to their parents tend to overcome frustrations in their lives more easily. In this case, there are studies that also favor the mother and her maternal love.

A mother carrying her baby.
It’s important to encourage contact from the first moments since the benefits are immediate.

Things to keep in mind

The media says a lot about whether intelligence comes from the mother or not. However, many times they misrepresent or don’t present the interpretation of the data clearly in the different investigations, given the lack of knowledge that exists about genetics in general.

So, keep in mind:

  • The mother plays a key role in the development of intelligence, beyond genetics
  • Like many other human-related issues, intelligence has many overlapping layers and, therefore, it isn’t possible to approach its study from a single point of view. You have to take into account multiple factors.
  • Genetics isn’t the only answer to how intelligent or not a person is, nor is the environment, but a combination of both. “You only inherit 40 to 60% of intelligence, which leaves a similar portion dependent on the environment.”
  • An article published in Forbes magazine makes it clear that when you inherit an X chromosome, you get whatever gene is on that chromosome, whether it’s linked to intelligence or not.

Final thoughts on how you inherit intelligence

Intelligence is really complex and you should stimulate it to achieve satisfactory results. Parents have to contribute to the child’s cognitive development. Also, good stimulation through challenges that foster the child’s cognitive development will contribute to their desire to excel.

Now that you know that intelligence comes partly from the mother, do intellectual exercises with your child so that you both improve your skills.

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  • Scott Barry Kaufman (October 17, 2013). “The Heritability of Intelligence: Not What You Think”. Scientific American. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
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