This is a follow up on What can I do to a 6-month-old child so she ends up smart and has a high IQ?. A comment left by @chasly mentions that:

High IQ is not something that can be trained. You can train people to do well in IQ tests by giving them practice but their actual IQ will depend on genetics. High IQ does not correlate with happiness. "Doing" something to your child sounds more like torture than a benefit.

What is current scientific consensus on how well parents can affect their future child's intelligence? Is there a significant correlation between parenting efforts and outcomes, or does intelligence primarily depend on one's genetics and peers of the same age? Please note that I'm only interested in scientific research rather than personal anecdotes.

Measures of "intelligence" that I'm primarily interested in, from best to worst: income percentile, maximum attained education level, GPA scores, IQ tests.

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    Is there a significant correlation between parenting efforts and outcomes How do you measure "outcome" here? Are you describing IQ tests specifically, or general "success in life" outcomes, or education, or something else?
    – Joe
    Nov 19, 2020 at 22:03
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    @Jonathan: do you consider giving birth to a child whilst enjoying high socioeconomic status to be a "parenting effort"?
    – user36162
    Nov 19, 2020 at 22:19
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    Percentile of income? That's a very uninteresting question - your income percentile is nearly entirely determined by your parent's income and background. Intelligence is not correlated nearly at all with income.
    – Joe
    Nov 19, 2020 at 22:43
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    @Joe people's kids can be richer or poorer than their parents. For an extreme example see Jeff Bezos. Nov 19, 2020 at 22:49
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    I made the cited comment. Note that I don't equate IQ with education. A very loose metaphor would be that IQ is the size of the receptacle and education is what you put into it. An expensively taught student could have a low IQ and someone with barely any education could have a high IQ. Parent input is important. Nov 20, 2020 at 1:08

1 Answer 1


Without directly referencing a number of journal articles, you could check out The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker. In the book he addresses the modern notion (and misconception) that every person is a 'blank slate' that can be molded how we like. I believe this book will offer up to date info to address this question.

What he specifically says about parenting (and you can do some Googling on this) is that life outcomes for children largely depend on genetics and characteristics that are intrinsic to your child. In other words, parents have much less of an impact on their children than they usually believe.

So to directly answer the question, you can't really affect your child's innate intelligence, but you can affect the things they know. As a parent your job is to teach your children how to become independent adults, not affect who they are.

This idea is becoming more common and also appears in The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik. That is - our job as parents is to help our children become who they were meant to become, not turn them into something that they are not.

To some that we have minimal impact on who our children are might seem like a negative thing, but in reality it relieves some of the pressure in parenting and allows us to just enjoy the development of our children.

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    It would be useful to reference the data Pinker uses in his book to justify his claims. Likewise for Gopnik. Presumably it should be in scientific journals. Nov 23, 2020 at 16:12
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    This is why this particular section of Stack is such a mess and why I don't participate anymore - I don't have time to parse through Google Scholar to provide a phenomenal answer on the internet, and yet I get downvoted for providing a thoughtful, good answer that points out two professionals who have done considerable research on the subject.
    – Cdn_Dev
    Nov 23, 2020 at 18:17
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    Downvoting for that reason would be (or is) absurd. Even in academic writing it's common to cite a reference as a gateway to other more detailed references. Thank you for the effort put into a thoughtful answer. Nov 23, 2020 at 18:36

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