Kids Inherit Intelligence From Their Mums Not Their Dads, Study Shows

Max JenkinsMax Jenkins in World
Published 02.10.19

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the intelligence that has made you so successful comes from your genetics, but studies show that it only comes from one – and it’s not your dad. It’s your mum.

According to research conducted last year, 40-60% of intelligence is hereditary, with the remaining percentage owing to the environment that one grows up in, as well as stimulation and personal characteristics. It refers to the findings of Dr Robert Lehrke, whose book The Sex Linkage of Intelligence (which really isn’t as saucy as it sounds) documents that most of a child’s intelligence relies on the X chromosome.


For those who hated Biology class, the X and Y chromosomes form cells in the human body. Females have two X chromosomes, whereas males have an X and a Y. Both males and females receive the first X chromosome from their mother, but only females get the second X from their father.

I know. Gone are the good old days when life was straightforward and all we knew was that humans are all descended from Adam and Eve and so long as we stayed away from rats, we wouldn’t catch the Plague.

Dr Lehrke’s theory concludes that as X is the intelligence chromosomes and females have two of them, they are more likely to pass on the intelligence to their children. They can also attribute this to the unique bond that mothers have with their children, so technically it’s not all down to science. There’s an emotional element, too.


In addition to these findings, scientists in universities across the world now believe that genes for advanced cognitive functions inherited from the dad, which includes reasoning and critical thinking, could be automatically deactivated and replaced by the superior chromosomes inherited from the mum.

Laboratory studies using genetically modified mice (what will they think of next?) found that those with an extra dose of maternal genes developed larger heads and brains, but had smaller bodies. Those with an extra dose of paternal genes had smaller brains and larger bodies.

Researchers discovered that cells containing only maternal or paternal genes in six different regions of the mouse brains controlled different cognitive functions, from dieting habits to memory space.


Cells with paternal genes accumulated in parts of the limbic system, which is involved in functions such as sex, food and aggression, which does actually explain a lot. But researchers did not discover any paternal cells in the cerebral cortex, which is where the most advanced cognitive functions take place, such as logic, thought, language and critical thinking.

Researchers in Glasgow decided to see if the same could be said for human subjects and found this to be the case when they interviewed 12,686 young people between the ages of 14 and 22 every year from 1994. Despite taking into account several factors, from the participants education to their race and socio-economic status, the team still found the best predictor of intelligence was the IQ of the mother.

Going back to the emotional bond between mothers and children, researchers at the University of Washington found that a secure emotional bond between a mother and child is crucial for the growth of some parts of the brain. After analysing the way in which a group of mothers related to their children for seven years, the researchers discovered children who were supported emotionally and had their intellectual needs fulfilled had a 10% larger hippocampus (which is part of the limbic system) at the age of thirteen on average than children whose mothers were emotionally distant.

So, technically, the brain can adapt and grow depending on how well you get on with your old lady.


A strong bond with the mother is thought to give a child a sense of security which allows them to explore the world, and the confidence to solve problems. In addition, devoted, attentive mothers tend to help children solve problems, further helping them to reach their potential.

Of course, there’s no reason why dads can’t play as big a nurture role as mums. And researchers point out that a whole array of other gene determined traits that can be inherited from the father are also key to unlocking intelligence.

And so, the moral of the story is: Mum knows best. Literally.

Images via Getty