Genetic factors that make children more prone to do well in school are also the same genetic factors that make children more open to new challenges, finds a new study. The results of this study are published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
For children low in math and reading skills, characteristics such as openness, intellectual curiosity and confidence can help them, finds new research.
Proficiency in reading and math is associated with a complex system of skills, some of which derive from personality traits.
"Our findings provide additional knowledge on the complex set of skills that interact and give rise to differences in academic achievement between children, as well as the complexity of genetic architecture of academic achievement, which is made of many parts beyond intellect," said lead author Margherita Malanchini, a postdoctoral student at the University of Texas (UT) - Austin in the US.
In prior studies, differences in academic skills have been linked to differences in self-regulation, or how well children can control their behavior and internal states against a backdrop of conflicting or distracting situations, drives, and impulses.
However, self-regulation is a very broad construct, incorporating both intellectual abilities, such as executive functioning, and personality traits such as conscientiousness, researchers said.
For the study, researchers collected data on 1,019 children, aged 8-14 years.
After accounting for intelligence, researchers found a strong link between executive functioning -- the ability to plan, organize and complete tasks -- and proficiency in reading and math.
This link was largely explained by shared genetic factors by 60 percent and environmental factors by 40 percent, the researchers noted in the paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
"This indicates that some of the genetic factors that predispose children to do well in school are also the same genetic factors that predispose children to be more open to new challenges, creative, intellectually curious and confident in their own academic ability," said Tucker-Drob, a research associate at the UT in the US.