It's in the Genes
How genetics influence your child's looks, personality and intelligence
Thoroughbred Jockey or Pro Wrestler
Height is another complicated trait that’s influenced not only by a child’s genetic makeup, but also by outside forces like health and nutrition. Gender plays a role as well, since boys tend to grow taller than girls. Scientists approximate that genetics and gender count for about 70 percent our height, while 30 percent is determined by environmental factors such as diet, exercise and overall health. Popeye was right when he extolled the virtues of spinach! Humans have been growing steadily taller over the centuries as our nutrition and health care improve.
For a fun and fairly accurate method to determine your baby’s adult height, add the parents’ heights together, divide by two, then add 3 inches for a boy or subtract 3 inches for a girl. While this method is relatively good, your child’s ultimate height can vary by as much as 5 inches above or below this calculation.
Mozart to Manilow
Although specific genes affecting musical ability have yet to be identified, there is undoubtedly a link between musical ability and heredity. In most cases, great musical talent shows up at a very young age, and great musicians usually have parents or close relatives with similar talent. But genes can’t do it alone. A child who inherits “musical genes” will rarely exhibit any talent without environmental stimulus like music played in the house, singing lessons or early exposure to musical instruments. The University of California San Francisco is currently conducting a study of people with perfect pitch. Their research shows that 40 percent of children who begin formal musical training by age four develop perfect pitch. In contrast, only four percent of those who began training after age nine did.
On the other hand, a person can be trained and coached to become a solid musician, but without the right DNA, will never become a virtuoso. UCSF scientists found that musicians with perfect pitch were four times more likely to report a family member with perfect pitch than those without it.
Smart Alecs and Alices
Like musical ability, research indicates that intelligence has both biological and environmental bases, but that genetics play a powerful role in intelligence potential. Studies show that the IQ difference between identical twins (even those raised in different homes) is miniscule (5.9 points), and many research studies indicate the more closely related two people are, the more similar their IQ’s are likely to be.
Although genetics have a lot to do with intelligence levels, environment has a lot to do with how those innate smarts actually develop. For example, a challenging environment may boost your IQ, but your score could drop again if your environment changes. Researchers in Canada found that baby rats whose mothers gave them more attention learned more easily, while doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say spending time with your children, reading to them, playing games and otherwise showing you care not only makes your children feel good, but it could help them be smarter.
What about so called “genius genes”? Science sees genius as a rare combination of superior genes, which may not even require a high level education to flourish. Two of history’s greatest minds, Leonardo de Vinci (sculptor, mathematician, engineer, artist, musician and poet) and William Shakespeare came from obscure backgrounds and had very little formal education. Despite lack of flashcards and preschool classes, both displayed dazzling intelligence and talent from the time they were young children.
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