Are Genes to Blame for Your Kid's Lack of Motivation in School?

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

Parents play a big role in their children's success at school. Help your kids do their best with these pointers from teachers.

Image: Discouraged boy via Shutterstock

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