Genetics News

Guess what! Genes are to blame when kids don’t care about school!

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From ScienceDaily:

When children are unmotivated at school, new research suggests their genes may be part of the equation. A study of more than 13,000 twins from six countries found that 40 to 50 percent of the differences in children’s motivation to learn could be explained by their genetic inheritance from their parents.

The results surprised study co-author Stephen Petrill, who thought before the study that the twins’ shared environment — such as the family and teachers that they had in common — would be a larger factor than genetics.

Instead, genetics and nonshared environment factors had the largest effect on learning motivation, whereas the shared environment had negligible impact.

Talk about unbelievable burble.

It must have been a happy moment when that guy “discovered” that “genes” played such a big role. No one can blame “genes” for anything (though we can, of course, throw loads of tax and insurance money at them). Biz op.

Better still,  failing schools, bad teachers, and parents who are too busy with their own lives to care much whether their kids are learning anything play a greatly reduced role? Politically excellent.

I learned far more from one conversation with a reearcher four decades ago, who studied underachievement in school.

She said, consider what happens when mom is on the phone, and Johnny interrupts her:

Mom A (her Johnny will probably do well at school): Excuse me, son, I am speaking to a gentleman about the car repairs. I’ll be with you in a moment.

Mom B (her Johnny will probably do poorly at school): Shut UP! Get OUT! I’m on the PHONE! SMACK!!!

The researcher said that a great deal can be predicted from the difference between these two types of interaction alone.

I believe her. For one thing, consider the level of abstract information communicated (critical for education, of course).

See also: There’s a gene for that… or is there?

File this research with: National Hush! Hush! Midnite News

4 Replies to “Guess what! Genes are to blame when kids don’t care about school!

  1. 1
    Mark Frank says:

    Without reading the original paper this appears to be a solid piece of research. Gossip, ad hominems and anecdotes are no refutation.

    Note that it does not claim that genes are to blame when kids don’t care about school (that’s just your journalistic hyperbole). It shows that a surprisingly large part of children’s reaction to school is heritable. The researcher was surprised by the results and does not conclude that families and teachers have no responsibility.

  2. 2
    Robert Byers says:

    How does he know genes are behind it? He is just eliminating other factors.
    Its not in genes. Easily twins reject each others motivations etc etc and easily go their own way more then other siblings. Motivation is everything.
    Absolutely being in the same family leads to like results in school. Its always that way.

  3. 3
    Bob O'H says:

    How does he know genes are behind it? He is just eliminating other factors.

    No they didn’t. They looked at the differences between identical and fraternal twins, i.e. where each set of twins shares the same environmental conditions (the household they grow up in etc), but differ in their genetic relatedness. If genetics is playing an appreciable role, then identical twins should be more similar to each other than fraternal twins (because they are genetically more similar). And this is what the researchers found.

  4. 4
    lack of Focus says:

    Studies on twins is the perfect controlled experiment to study the relative significance of genetic vs environmental factors on various traits, including behaviour. Identical twins are as genetically identical as two people can possibly be.

    I have identical twin daughters and some behaviours and attributes vary considerably, presumably due the environmental factors, and others are very similar. They are both equally intelligent but one is more driven than the other.

    The researcher may have been surprised by the conclusions but I was not.

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