Does intelligence come from Mom or Dad? (3 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Does intelligence come from Mom or Dad?” and explore the concept of intelligence and the extent to which it is derived from the genes of the mother as well as the father to help understand the answer. 

Does intelligence come from Mom or Dad?

Intelligence comes from both Mom or Dad. The following are 3 insights into how intelligence is inherited – 

  • Gene variations that determine one’s IQ may be handed down from both parents.
  • Mothers might be primarily responsible for their children’s IQ.
  • Environment.

These 3 insights into how intelligence is inherited will be discussed in further detail below after taking a deeper look at what intelligence means. 

What is intelligence?

Intelligence is a mental attribute that includes the capacity to learn from past experiences, adapt to new situations, comprehend and manage complicated concepts, and control one’s surroundings using knowledge.

Much of the fascination among intelligence investigators stems from their attempts to define just what intelligence is. In various definitions, different scientists have stressed different characteristics of intelligence. 

In a 1921 symposium, for example, American psychologists Lewis Terman and Edward L. Thorndike disagreed on how to define intelligence, with Terman emphasising abstract thinking and Thorndike emphasising learning and the capacity to provide excellent answers to questions.

However, psychologists have increasingly acknowledged that comprehending both what intelligence is and what it accomplishes requires adaptability to the environment. 

An artist reworks a painting to convey a more coherent impression; a student in school learns the material he needs to know in order to do well in a course; a physician treating a patient with unfamiliar symptoms learns about the underlying disease, or a student in school learns the material he needs to know in order to do well in a course. 

The adaptation usually entails altering oneself in order to deal better with the environment, but it may also entail changing the environment or finding a whole new one.

Perception, learning, memory, reasoning, and problem-solving are just a few of the cognitive processes that go into effective adaptation. 

The fundamental focus in a definition of intelligence, then, is that it is a selected mixture of cognitive and mental processes that are purposefully oriented toward efficient adaptation, rather than a single cognitive or mental function.

As a result, a physician learning about a new disease adapts by perceiving disease-related material in medical literature, learning what it contains, remembering the critical aspects needed to treat the patient, and then using reason to solve the problem of applying the information to the patient’s needs. 

Intelligence has evolved to be viewed as a collection of skills rather than a single aptitude. However, this has not always been evident to researchers; rather, much of the history of the discipline revolves around debates about the nature and abilities that make intelligence.

What are these 3 insights into how intelligence is inherited?

Gene variations that determine one’s IQ may be handed down from both parents.

The total influence of a myriad of genes passed down from parents, as well as the socioeconomic milieu in which one grows up, may be ascribed to intelligence.

According to genetic studies, around half of the variations in IQ may be linked to hereditary variances, although intelligence is also influenced by environmental circumstances. The environment, socioeconomic status, and health status can all have an impact on our intellect.

Intelligence genetics is a complex subject. Scientists still don’t have a complete understanding of it. In a 2017 research including over 78,000 people in the United Kingdom, 40 additional genes were discovered to be linked to intelligence. 

Similarly, hundreds of gene variations that determine one’s IQ may be handed down from both parents. Scientists are still researching and gathering information on this intricate system.

Important cognitive genes were discovered on the X-chromosome in older, obsolete research. Males have an X and a Y chromosome, whereas females have two ‘X’ chromosomes (XX) (XY). 

Although the X-chromosome has been related to brain development, this does not always imply intelligence. No recent research has specifically discovered critical cognitive genes on the X-chromosome.

According to some accounts, dads play a modest genetic influence in determining a child’s “intelligence quotient,” or IQ, which is a score obtained through the administration of a standardised test. Because it is quantifiable, scientists use this number as a proxy for intelligence.

While there isn’t much data to support either side, the concept that mothers’ genes are the primary predictor of their children’s IQ is most certainly false. 

Recent research on the genetics of intelligence suggests that IQ is influenced by a large number of genes — may be hundreds scattered across our DNA and passed down from both parents.

Mothers might be primarily responsible for their children’s IQ.

Part of the argument that mothers, not fathers, are primarily responsible for their children’s IQ is based on prior studies that revealed many critical genes associated with intelligence are located on the X chromosome.

Only their moms may give their sons an X; their dads must give them a Y.

The argument for mom-derived intelligence is that essential IQ genes are found on the X chromosome, implying that males must acquire their intellect from their mothers.

Even if this were true, girls would still receive a combination of their mother’s and father’s IQ genes because males give their female children an X.

Even the assumption that male offspring inherit intellect from their mothers is questionable. Because no current research has discovered critical genes for intelligence on the X chromosome, this is the case.

In reality, despite some studies claiming that our genes account for almost half of our IQ, the most recent study has not been able to identify any genes that have a major influence on intelligence on their own.

The greatest reason why scientists haven’t been able to pinpoint the precise genetic origins of intelligence is that each of the hundreds, if not thousands, of genes involved in intelligence has little impact on total IQ.

As a result, your ultimate “genetic” IQ is the total of all of these little impacts, each of which is just too small to be detected in the kind of genetic studies that have been conducted thus far.

The IQs of 12,686 persons between the ages of 14 and 22 were matched to the IQs of their mothers in one of the studies considered as confirmation of the maternal determinants of intelligence.

According to the article, child IQs differed by just approximately 15 points on average from mother IQs. The University of Glasgow’s Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit is responsible for the research. We couldn’t find it, so we wrote an email to the unit.

A senior research fellow at the unit, Geoff Der, responded. He said the article looked to be alluding to research he co-authored on the impact of breastfeeding on IQ.

According to the study, “maternal IQ had the highest independent influence” on children’s IQ, with factors including maternal education, age, family poverty, and birth order “all contributing independently for most outcomes.”

But, according to Der, the study didn’t take into account paternal intelligence because the data wasn’t accessible. For all we know, there might be an even stronger link between children’s IQ and their dads’.  Der said that the claim in the post that children’s IQs were within 15 points of their mothers’ IQs could not have come from his research.


Even if IQs do correlate higher with mother intellect, this may not be as shocking as it appears. Intelligence isn’t just determined by heredity; the environment also plays a significant effect. 

This is particularly true during the first five years of life when our brains are shaped by our surroundings. Mothers have typically had a greater effect on the home settings of their children (though this is changing, of course).

“Factors such as parental education, socioeconomic position, and number of, particularly older, siblings may play an essential role in accounting for paternal age-AH4 relationships,” claimed one study, which looked at the influence of a father’s age on children’s intelligence. (AH4 is an intelligence test, similar to IQ.)

If this influence is hereditary rather than environmental, it suggests that a father’s genes can have a significant impact on his children’s IQ.

Conclusion – 

This blog post attempted to answer the question, “Does intelligence come from Mom or Dad?” and reviewed the concept of intelligence and the extent to which it is derived from the genes of the mother as well as the father to help determine if intelligence comes from Mom or Dad. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Willingham, E. No, Research Has Not Established That You Inherited Your Intelligence From Your Mother. (2016, September 16). Retrieved from

Proven! Kids inherit smartness from moms and not dads, study finds. Times of India. (2020, February 24). Retrieved from

Starr, B. Debunking the Idea That a Kid’s Intelligence Comes Mostly From Mom. (2016, September 29). Retrieved from

What do we know about inheriting intelligence from our parents?

Health Desk. (2021, November 10). Retrieved from

Ritchie, D. Does Intelligence REALLY Come From Our Mothers? (2016, October 21). Retrieved from

Where does intelligence come from, mother or father? Quora. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Children Inherit Intelligence From Mothers, Says Study. NDTV. (2016, October 06). Retrieved from