Is Not Liking School Genetic? Study Says Kids Inherit Educational Apathy

We often put a lot of pressure on teachers to find ways to motivate uninspired students to become more invested in their education. However, a new study indicates that a lot of that motivation may be out of a teacherís control. In fact, for a lot of students, educational motivation is heavily influenced by genetics.

Through their study, Ohio State researchers were able to attribute 40 to 50 percent of a childís motivation to genes. Evidently, approximately half of a future studentsí love Ė or apathy Ė for school is determined at birth.

The studyís 25 authors thought that examining sets of twins would be most appropriate since that would eliminate environmental differences. Because twins live in the same homes, have the same family income, and attend the same schools, itís easy to make the case that they primarily have the same non-genetic factors influencing their behaviors.

The researchers asked the twins a series of questions about school on an individual basis, and their responses were then compared to their siblings. Next, the researchers broke up the data between fraternal and identical twins. Since identical twins share 100 percent of the same genes compared to just 50 percent for fraternal twins, the researchers could see just how influential a studentís genetic makeup is.

The results were clear: identical twins were significantly more likely to share the educational motivation of their siblings than fraternal twins. Some identical twins were overachievers and some were slackers, but more often than not, identical twins performed similarly in school to their twins. Given that most other factors are the same for twins, this data strongly suggested that genetics play a big role in the attitude students have toward school.

Notably, the same study was conducted in six different countries — thatís 13,000 twins in total — to see if it held up in various parts of the world. Indeed, each country verified that twins who shared the most genes shared the same kind of motivation in school.

The researchers arenít trying to argue that thereís a specific gene that scientists will be able to identify as the ďeducational motivationĒ gene. However, the findings do demonstrate that studentsí interest in school is at least significantly influenced by the genes acquired from their parents.

Obviously, this study isnít meant to discourage teachers from finding ways to motivate their students. After all, if genes are responsible for half of student motivation, that still leaves plenty of room for teachers to inspire kids to become better students anyway. That said, the study does help to explain why some students seem inherently disinterested in the educational process, as well as why some of the usual motivation tricks donít work on some students. Some students, it seems, are just born that way.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

54 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Vicky P.
Vicky P3 years ago

interesting

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Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Interesting.
Environment contributes, too.

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Deborah W.
Deborah W3 years ago

Starts in the home, handed down by older role models to younger family members. Teachers are not in the business of shaping the raw material, but stimulating what presents once school age is reached. Not a beginning, but a continuation ... with shared responsibility by both. Much more work required from each camp.

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Barbara S.
Barbara S.3 years ago

I was a straight A student for man years. As I became a Middle Schooler, I began getting bored. My teachers tried to get my guardians to let me "skip" at least a year or two, so that I could have classes that challenged me. (I had a very high I.Q.). My guardians refused to allow me to be influenced by "older" children who might "corrupt" me... I loved my teachers, but had little interest in the classes during high school. At the end of my senior year one of my student counsellors explained why my I.Q. and my guardians' refusal to allow me to go into accelerated classes had handicapped my education. I'm glad he explained it to me. It made a great difference in how I perceived myself from that day forward. Neither of my parents or my guardians had graduated high school, so apparently none of them knew how important fundamental learning and nurturing, challenging classes would have benefitted me. However, I made up for it by becoming an over-achiever in the jobs I worked until I retired at a young age. It could so easily have gone in a negative direction. So, while genes DO play perhaps a 50% role in scholastic learning, becoming aware of your capabilities and using that to your advantage is the key to success.

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Ruhee B.
Ruhee B3 years ago

Not sure about this. I was never keen on school, especially at the time. Always wanting to do better than my friends was actually the thing that most motivated me! School has a very important social aspect which maybe people forget. If someone has a positive experience of the social aspect of school then they are much more likely to enjoy it. And some people only like it for the social aspect and aren't bothered about the learning side!!

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Tomek Malinowski
Tomek Malinowski3 years ago

Noted.

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Monika Ka
Monika K3 years ago

Thanks

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Mahmoud Khalil
Mahmoud Khalil3 years ago

thanks

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Debbi -.
Debbi -3 years ago

My husband has five siblings and their successes in school is varied. My husband was bored in school (high I.Q.) and we have two sons who are like us, curious about most things and search for answers. One of his brothers had five children; only one enjoyed school, the others struggled through. I believe parents pass the capacity to learn on to their children but family dynamics plays a large part in how each child uses his abilities.

Nurture or nature? Sometimes one or the other, sometimes both.

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