How to Boost Child Intelligence As a Mom, Study Finds

How to Boost Child Intelligence As a Mom, Study Finds
How to Boost Child Intelligence As a Mom, Study Finds

. Study Finds How to Boost Child Intelligence As a Mom

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Maternal Supportiveness and Child Intelligence: A study published in the journal Intelligence reveals a significant positive association between maternal supportiveness and a child’s general intelligence.
  • Study Details and Methodology: The research, conducted by Curtis Dunkel and colleagues, analyzed data from the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Study, which included 1,075 children from diverse backgrounds. Maternal supportiveness was measured using the 3-bag task, a semi-structured play procedure at ages 14 months, 24 months, and 36 months.
  • Persistence of Impact: The study found that the positive impact of maternal supportiveness on a child’s general intelligence persisted until late childhood. This effect remained even after controlling for factors like the mother’s own intelligence, emphasizing the lasting influence of maternal supportiveness.
  • Child Responsiveness and Interest: Children who showed more interest and responsiveness to their parents’ efforts to stimulate their thinking tended to receive more encouragement, contributing to higher general intelligence scores.
  • Long-Term Implications and Future Research: While the impact of maternal supportiveness on general intelligence may diminish in adulthood, understanding the timing and reasons behind this disappearance requires further research.

According to a new study published in the journal Intelligence, maternal supportiveness has a significant impact on a child’s general intelligence.

Also, this effect may persist until late childhood.

While previous studies had already shown a positive association between maternal supportiveness and cognitive abilities in children, this new research aimed to delve deeper into the relationship by considering potential confounding factors and using a larger sample size.

Lasting Impact of Maternal Supportiveness on  Child Intelligence

The study, conducted by independent researcher Curtis Dunkel and his colleagues, explored whether maternal supportiveness specifically influenced certain abilities or had a broader impact on overall intelligence.

They analyzed data from the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Study. It included 1,075 children from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Maternal supportiveness was measured using the 3-bag task. This is a semi-structured play procedure, at ages 14 months, 24 months, and 36 months.

Trained graduate students rated the interactions based on parental sensitivity, cognitive stimulation, and positive regard.

Cognitive ability was assessed at different ages using measures such as vocabulary production, comprehension, early gestures, and mental development tests.

The findings revealed a positive association between maternal supportiveness and a child’s general intelligence. This was even after controlling for other factors like the mother’s own intelligence.

However, the researchers noted that this effect seemed to disappear by adulthood, where genetic factors become the primary influence on intelligence.

The Findings

Interestingly, the study also found that children who showed more interest and responsiveness to their parents’ efforts to stimulate their thinking tended to receive more encouragement, contributing to higher general intelligence scores.

Additionally, when considering the child’s temperament, the direct link between maternal supportiveness and general intelligence became smaller.

However, the indirect influence of maternal supportiveness on general intelligence through its impact on the child’s intelligence at the age of four remained significant.

While the precise mechanisms underlying the strong effect of maternal supportiveness on general intelligence require further investigation, the researchers emphasize that even a slight advantage in cognitive performance during critical stages of a child’s development can have significant outcomes.

While the impact of maternal supportiveness on general intelligence may fade over time, understanding the timing and reasons behind this disappearance is an area that merits future research.

Overall, this study highlights the importance of maternal supportiveness in shaping a child’s general intelligence, particularly during early development.

Although the long-term effects may diminish, the short-term influence of maternal supportiveness on cognitive performance can have implications for a child’s educational journey and future opportunities.

Here are some additional related findings:

  1. A longitudinal study conducted by researchers at a leading university found that children who experienced higher levels of maternal supportiveness during early childhood had better academic performance and higher IQ scores in adolescence. 
  2. Another study revealed that maternal supportiveness not only influenced general intelligence but also had a positive impact on children’s executive functioning skills, such as attention control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility.
  3. Research has shown that the quality of maternal supportiveness can interact with genetic factors to shape a child’s intelligence.

In other words, children with a genetic predisposition for higher intelligence may benefit even more from nurturing and supportive maternal interactions.

  1. A study examining the influence of maternal supportiveness on brain development found that children who received consistent and responsive maternal care had greater neural connectivity and more efficient neural processing, which may contribute to their higher levels of general intelligence. 
  2. Interestingly, maternal supportiveness has been found to have a stronger impact on the intelligence of girls compared to boys.

This suggests that the effects of maternal supportiveness may be influenced by gender-specific factors and warrants further investigation.

  1. In addition to its impact on intelligence, maternal supportiveness has been linked to improved socioemotional well-being in children, including higher self-esteem, better emotional regulation and more positive peer relationships. 
  2. Studies have also shown that the positive effects of maternal supportiveness on intelligence and socioemotional development can extend beyond childhood.

Individuals who experienced high levels of maternal supportiveness during their early years are more likely to have higher educational attainment, better career outcomes, and overall life satisfaction in adulthood.

More Findings

It’s important to note that while maternal supportiveness plays a crucial role, it is just one of many factors that contribute to a child’s intelligence.

Other factors, such as genetic predispositions, educational opportunities, and individual motivation, also play significant roles in shaping intellectual abilities.

Research suggests that interventions aimed at enhancing maternal supportiveness, such as parent training programs and family support services, can have a positive impact on children’s cognitive development.

These interventions focus on promoting positive parent-child interactions, fostering emotional connection, and providing resources for effective parenting practices.


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Understanding the long-term effects of maternal supportiveness on intelligence has implications for policy-making and the design of early childhood interventions.

Investing in initiatives that promote supportive parenting practices can contribute to improving cognitive outcomes and fostering intellectual potential in future generations.

These findings collectively highlight the multifaceted impact of maternal supportiveness on children’s intelligence and underscore the significance of nurturing and responsive caregiving for optimal cognitive and socioemotional development.

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