There are many factors that influence our children’s intellectual development, including economic status and maternal education. Now, researchers have discovered a new factor that contributes largely to a child’s academic success in both elementary and middle school.
Birth Weight and Cognitive Development
A research team at Northwestern University merged birth and school records for all children born in Florida between the years of 1992 to 2002. This totaled approximately 1.3 million children, including 15,000 pairs of twins. The relationship between birth weight and cognitive development of the children was then analyzed from birth through middle school. The resulting data showed that babies who weighed more at birth accomplished higher test scores from third through eighth grade. This relationship was even witnessed when comparing twins. Surprisingly, this relationship continued to exist regardless of a number of factors including race, socioeconomic status, enrichment experiences provided by parents, and maternal education.
This data sheds light on the importance of increased birth weight of newborns, which exists as a common indicator of a baby’s health. Increased birth weight is a product of increased gestation, which leads to a number of benefits including additional time for the development of a fully formed brain. Factors associated with higher birth weight include improved nutrition and reduced stress in the carrying mother.
Of course this trend does have exceptions just as many other factors associated with a child’s academic success. Associate professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University and coauthor of this study, Jonathan Guryan, noted, “You’d rather be a low birth-weight baby with a mother who has a college degree, than a heavier baby, born to a high school dropout.” When raising a child, though many innate qualities such as birth weight play a role, the environment of the child and encouragement, as well as the support of the parents, continue to hold the utmost importance.