Washington: A kid’s genes have a far greater impact on his report cards than his school’s quality or his parents’ efforts, a recent study suggests.
Character traits, such as grit or desire to learn, have a heavy hand in academic success and are partially rooted in genetics, according to the University of Texas study.
Though academic achievement is dependent on cognitive abilities, such as logic and reasoning, researchers believe certain personality and character traits can motivate and drive learning.
Researcher Elliot Tucker-Drob examined how genetic and environmental factors influence character and its relation to academic achievement using data from 811 third- to eighth-grade twins and triplets and found that genetic differences among people account for about half of the differences in their character, and that the remaining variation in character was influenced by environmental factors occurring outside of the home and school environments.
“Until now, parenting and schooling have been suggested by research as likely explanations for character, but our study suggests otherwise,” said Tucker-Drob.
By comparing siblings, researchers learned that outside of what could be genetically explained, variance in a child’s character could be attributed to unshared environmental effects, ruling out experiences shared by siblings such as parenting and attending the same school.
“As with intelligence and personality, genetics form a sizable part of the basis for character,” said Tucker-Drob.
Because character was not found to be systematically associated with the family environment, “programs to improve character will need to be creative,” said co-author Paige Harden, adding “Interventions will need to introduce experiences that are not already varying across families, in order to positively affect children’s character and ultimately their academic achievement.”
The study appears in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.