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Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
If your child is unmotivated to learn despite having an enthusiastic teacher or nurturing parents who encourage school success, there may be another factor to consider.
New research from Ohio State University suggests that a child’s willingness to learn can be inherited through genetics. The study collected data from more than 13,000 sets of fraternal and identical twins, ages 9 to 16, across six countries (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and Japan).
The twins were asked how much they enjoyed various academic activities (like reading, writing, and spelling), and how they rated their ability in different academic subjects. The collected information was then analyzed to see how closely each twin’s answers matched, and to compare the answers of fraternal twins with identical twins (who shared more common genes).
“On average, 40 to 50 percent of the difference between twins in motivation could be explained by genetics,” reports Science Daily. “About the same percentage could be explained by what is called the twins’ nonshared environment – for example, differential parenting or a teacher that one twin has but not the other.”
The most unexpected finding was that only about 3 percent of the differences could be linked to the siblings’ shared environment, or common family experiences.
However, this research doesn’t mean that it’s time to screen for a “motivation for learning” gene, or that you should be less conscious of your child’s education. Another recent study even believes that kids raised in nurturing home environments are likely to be more intelligent. “We should absolutely encourage students and motivate them in the classroom. But these findings suggest the mechanisms for how we do that may be more complicated than we had previously thought,” says Stephen Petrill, co-author of the Ohio State University study.
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Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn
Image: Discouraged boy via Shutterstock
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Education, New Research, Parenting News, Parents News Now
Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
Update (2/25/15): Parliament passed the bill on Tuesday, 2/24, making Britain the first country to officially embrace this three-parent IVF technique.
Early last year, we blogged about a fairly new and controversial IVF technique called the mitochondrial transfer procedure. The IVF technique allows a mother’s egg and father’s sperm to be fertilized along with another donor woman’s genes, essentially giving a baby genes from three parents.
The “three-parent” IVF technique benefited babies predisposed to genetic disorders because the donor’s genes (contained in donated mitochondria) could “cancel” out any defected genes. But naysayers were concerned about the ethics of gene manipulation and the morals of “customizing” a baby to fit certain specifications. (Think: Gattaca)
Despite the concerns, Britain became the first country to begin legalizing the IVF procedure. The House of Commons voted 382 to 128 to approve a bill that would make “three-parent” babies official in the U.K. A similar procedure was also created in the U.S. over a decade ago, and a few benefited from having three-parent genes. But the procedure was eventually banned, reports The Washington Post
Later this month, Parliament will vote on the bill. If it passes again, the IVF technique will be legal in Britain starting in October.
Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com who covers baby-related content. She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea
Photo: Test tubes indicating boy or girl babies via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
A point against the idea that there’s a good-at-math gene you’re lacking—scientists have discovered that many of the genes that influence a child’s math ability also impact their skill at reading. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, compared DNA and math and reading test results for nearly 2,800 12-year-olds in the UK, looking for DNA differences and how skills matched up.
Of course, there isn’t complete overlap (could that account for the lack of math or language prowess in an otherwise brilliant person?)—and the study authors also found that nurture can also play a role in whether your child becomes the next Einstein or Shakespeare.
“We looked at this question in two ways, by comparing the similarity of thousands of twins, and by measuring millions of tiny differences in their DNA. Both analyses show that similar collections of subtle DNA differences are important for reading and maths,” study author Oliver Davis, of University College London, said in a school news release.
“However, it’s also clear just how important our life experience is in making us better at one or the other. It’s this complex interplay of nature and nurture as we grow up that shapes who we are.”
Not sure where your child’s talents lie? Take our quiz.
Image: Kids at school by Pressmaster/Shutterstock.com
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Monday, June 23rd, 2014
A new study conducted by University of California researchers has found that parents who have a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often choose not to have more children, citing the energy, expense, and complicated logistics required to care for an autistic child. More from HealthDay News:
In the study, a team led by Neil Risch of the University of California, San Francisco, looked at nearly 20,000 families in California. All of the families included a child with autism born between 1990 and 2003.
These families were compared to a “control” group of more than 36,000 families that did not have a child with autism.
Parents whose first child had autism were about one-third less likely to have a second child than parents in the control group, the study found, while parents who had a later-born child with autism were equally less likely to have more children.
The researchers also found that parents of children with autism were likely to continue having other children until the child with autism began showing signs of or was diagnosed with the disorder. This suggests that not having more children is a decision made by parents, rather than a reproductive problem, the study authors said.
According to Risch’s team, in calculating the risk to families of having a second child with autism, most prior studies on the issue have ignored the fact that many families with an autistic child may have already made the decision to stop reproducing. That means the real risk of having a second child with autism may be higher than has been generally thought, they noted.
So, in the new study, Risch’s team accounted for the decision by some couples to stop having kids after they had already had a child with autism. When that factor was taken into account, there was about a one in 10 chance that the parents of child with autism who did decide to have more children would have a second child with autism, the investigators found.
The study was published June 18 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
“While it has been postulated that parents who have a child with [autism] may be reluctant to have more children, this is first time that anyone has analyzed the question with hard numbers,” Risch, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF, said in a university news release.
He believes that the “findings have important implications for genetic counseling of affected families.”
Study co-author Lisa Croen, an epidemiologist and director of the Autism Research Program at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, noted, “unfortunately, we still don’t know what causes autism, or which specific conditions make it more likely.”
And, she added, “We are hoping that further research will enable us to identify both effective treatment strategies and, ultimately, modifiable causes of the disorder, so parents won’t have to curtail their families for fear of having another affected child.”
Image: Boy at a playground, via Shutterstock
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Monday, May 5th, 2014
The environmental factors a child are exposed to may hold as much weight as genetics in predicting whether that child develops an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new British study. More from Reuters:
Sven Sandin, who worked on the study at King’s College London and Sweden’s Karolinska institute, said it was prompted “by a very basic question which parents often ask: ‘If I have a child with autism, what is the risk my next child will too?’”
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggest heritability is only half the story, with the other 50 percent explained by environmental factors such as birth complications, socio-economic status, or parental health and lifestyle.
The study also found that children with a brother or sister with autism are 10 times more likely to develop the condition, three times if they have a half-brother or sister with autism, and twice as likely if they have a cousin with autism.
“At an individual level, the risk of autism increases according to how close you are genetically to other relatives with autism,” said Sandin. “We can now provide accurate information about autism risk which can comfort and guide parents and clinicians in their decisions.”
People with autism have varying levels of impairment across three common areas: social interaction and understanding, repetitive behavior and interests, and language and communication.
The exact causes of the neurodevelopmental disorder are unknown, but evidence has shown it is likely to include a range of genetic and environmental risk factors.
Image: Baby, via Shutterstock
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