Researchers from University of Bristol have used data from a 90’s cohort study to examine parental personality in relation to their children’s math and science abilities in grade school, the first ever study to make this connection!
The researchers looked at parents’ personality by examining the “locus of control” (a psychological measure of how much someone believes that they have control over their life or whether external forces beyond their control dictate how life turns out).
People with an external locus of control tend to believe there is little point in making an effort because what happens to them is due to luck and circumstances, whereas internally controlled people are motivated into action because they feel they can influence what is going to happen.
How did they do it?
In this study, researchers asked 1600 pregnant women (who took part in the 90’s study) to fill out questionnaires examining their locus of control. They then used their responses and compared it to the the mathematical and scientific reasoning, and problem-solving skills of their children at the ages of 8, 11 and 13 (assessed in school using specially designed tests).
The research shows that mothers with an internal locus of control during pregnancy were more likely to have a child who is good at math and science.
Internally focused mothers were also more likely to provide their children with diets that assist brain development, read stories to their children, and show a greater interest in how their child was succeeding academically.
Professor Jean Golding, Lead author and founder of the Children of the 90’s study said:
“It is widely known that the locus of control of a child is strongly associated with their academic achievements but until now we didn’t know if mothers’ locus of control orientation during pregnancy had a role to play in early childhood. Thanks to the longitudinal data from Children of the 90s study we can now make these associations”
Stephen Nowicki, Professor of Psychology at Emory University and co-author added:
“It is possible for a parent to change their outlook; we’ve demonstrated in the past that parents who become more internal (i.e. learn to see the connections between what they do and what happens to their children) improved their parenting skills which would have a positive effect on their children’s personal, social and academic lives.”
Author quotes and material sourced from: University of Bristol.
All content has been edited for readability and length.
Journal Reference: Jean Golding, Steven Gregory, Genette Ellis, Terezinha Nunes, Peter Bryant, Yasmin Iles-Caven, Stephen Nowicki. Maternal Prenatal External Locus of Control and Reduced Mathematical and Science Abilities in Their Offspring: A Longitudinal Birth Cohort Study. Frontiers in Psychology, 2019; 10 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00194.