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Hyperactivity and Poor Academic Success Linked to Common Genetic Influences

Researchers have revealed that hyperactive behaviour and poor academic achievement are linked primarily because of common genetic influences.

Although the relationship between such behaviours as over-activity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness in children and poor achievement in math, reading, language, and other areas has been well documented, little is known about the reasons for this link.

The researchers examined the extent to which common genetic and environmental factors operate across hyperactivity and achievement in nearly 2,000 7-year-old pairs of twins taking part in the U.K.-based Twins Early Development Study.

In the study, both parents and teachers provided ratings of twins' hyperactive behaviour problems (e.g., restlessness, fidgeting, distractibility, impulsivity, and attention span). Academic achievement was based on teacher assessments of English and mathematics skills conducted at the end of the first year of primary school (equivalent to first grade in the United States).

"Whatever the mechanism responsible, the finding of substantial genetic overlap between hyperactivity and achievement has important implications for research searching for genes associated with the two behaviours," according to Kimberly J. Saudino, associate professor of psychology at Boston University and the study's lead author.

The study appears in the May/June 2007 issue of the journal Child Development.


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