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Aced English class? Give your genetics an A

Genetics appears to have a stronger influence on reading skills than math ability.

Dmitriy Shironosov/iStockphoto

A good reader? Thank your genes. Math more your thing? Thank your home life and/or your school. Okay, this may be a simplification, but it's the thrust of a new study that came out on the weekend.

While looking at a wide range of characteristics associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, scientists studying the interplay between genes and environment have unearthed an interesting wrinkle relating to academic achievement in general.

Researchers (from Case Western Reserve University, Ohio State University and elsewhere) found that genetics had a stronger influence on reading skills than on math ability. On the other hand, the home and/or school environment (known as the shared environment) influenced math more so than reading. The researchers don't know why, according to a statement they released, posted on Red Orbit.

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The research revolved around the study of 271 pairs of 10-year-old identical and fraternal twins, which looked at genetic and environmental influences on mathematics ability, reading skills and the continuum of ADHD behavior. The more twins are alike on particular measures, the greater the role of genetics, the thinking goes.

"The majority of the twins used in the study don't have ADHD," said Lee A. Thompson, chair of Case Western Reserve University's Psychological Sciences Department, in a statement. "We are looking at the continuum of the behavioral symptoms of ADHD - looking at individual differences."

This study also found hyperactivity and inattention had an effect on academics.

What does this mean for parents and kids?

"There are different approaches for interventions that can be taken based on the extent of environmental influence on ADHD behavior, reading ability and mathematics ability," the Red Orbit report says.

In other words, no using genetics as an excuse.

Parents, how much of your child's academic achievement feels predetermined? Are there certain subjects you've been able to nurture up to an A?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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