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Is your IQ really 50% nature and 50% nurture?
TUESDAY, JANUARY 03, 2017 00:00 AM

When children are born, do they already have a certain limited intelligence that they can reach because of genetics? Are only those with genius parents going to become smart themselves? Alternatively, does the environment people grow up in greatly change their potential? Will teachers' kids be especially likely to be great learners because of access to their parent's knowledge and methods? The nature versus nurture dilemma is one that scientists have been studying for decades. Read on to learn about how nature and nurture affect your IQ.

Nature v. nurture

Daniel Griffin wrote, "Nature vs. Nurture? Feral Children" which studies children who grew up in the wilderness and had no human interaction. These children had learned skills like how to survive from the animals around them, such as monkeys and dogs. They took on the behaviors and mannerisms of the creatures they lived alongside. However, when found and integrated with the rest of human society, the children were able to be educated. However, their chances of fully developing and becoming functional adults were not high because they had missed crucial learning opportunities as children. The feral children had to learn and reach normal milestones for babies and young kids (like learning their parents are still alive and will come back even when they are out of sight) but at a much later age. These limitations found in the feral children studies show that nurture is a huge part of a person's IQ. When children have opportunities to learn and grow from the moment they are born with the help of supportive parents they have a better chance of succeeding in school and life. 

Another study at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia and Lund University in Sweden studied twins who lived in separate households. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the research found that those who resided with more educated households have a higher cognitive ability than those in lower intelligence environments. This finding does not discount the fact that DNA also plays a key role in intellect, but notes that nurture, especially at a young age, is also important.

A person's genetics do have an effect on their smarts, however. Individuals who have highly intelligent parents often grow up in more affluent homes with better access to higher education opportunities, larger and more difficult vocabularies and financial stability. All of these factors can improve a person's potential for learning and lead to a higher IQ. 

Genetics Home Reference noted that like all genetic traits, intelligence is complex and affected by familial and environmental factors. There is no one gene that will tell scientists how smart a person can be. Instead, small parts of many genes link intelligence, which can make it difficult to know how DNA is a part of human IQs. GHR also shared that it is likely each person's individual IQ is a 50/50 mix of environment and genetics, or nature and nurture. While parents cannot change their kids' DNA, they can provide an environment that is stimulating and offers opportunities for learning and growth while a child is developing.

How can you increase your kids' IQs?

Since nurturing a child has a major effect on their IQ, parents can do some things to help their kids along. For example, Psych Central noted that enrolling young children in preschool can boost IQ, as well as engaging kids while reading together. Pregnant women can incorporate essential fatty acids like fish high in omega-3s into their diet while pregnant and breastfeeding to improve a child's IQ.

Reading aloud to your kids and using a wide range of words while speaking will help them gain language skills which will come in handy during their academic and professional careers. Encouraging kids to attend school, do their homework, study and ask questions when they need help can also work toward increasing their smarts. Knowing they have a supportive family can greatly help kids step out of their comfort zones and try new things which lead to learning experiences. Even doing puzzles with young kids can quicken the development of and reinforce their cognitive abilities.

Talk to your child's physician about his mental growth. There are specific milestones for each age that a baby, toddler, and even kid or teen should reach. Keep your children on track for these important steps by providing them with ample opportunities to learn and grow inside and outside your home.

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