Same Genes May Cause Hyperactivity and Poor Grades

Tuesday May 22nd - 3:18pm

Genes may be the reason why hyperactive children don't do as well in school.

To explore links between the two traits, researchers at Boston University and the Institute of Psychiatry in London looked at 1,876 pairs of twins (with a mean age of seven years) to explore overlaps in hyperactive behavior problems (as rated by parents and teachers) and academic achievement (as assessed by teachers).

The results showed strong genetic links between low achievement and symptoms of hyperactivity, like inattention, fidgeting, restlessness, and distractibility.

The authors of this new study, Kimberly Saudino and Robert Plomin, have proposed two explanations for the findings: The genes that influence hyperactivity may also influence academic achievement, and being hyperactive may make it harder for children to succeed in school.

The study challenges myths that hyperactive kids don't do well in school because they're lazy, or they don't try hard enough. And, because the children displayed similar hyperactive behaviors both at home and in the classroom, it's unlikely that poor grades were due to frustrations at school, as many previous studies have indicated.

"It's not just a matter of not trying hard enough. These things are linked. They're genetically linked, and it's not simply a matter of effort," said Saudino, in an interview with Reuters Health.

Twin studies are commonly employed by scientists to investigate whether certain traits are related to genes or the environment.

More details of the study are available in the May/June 2007 issue of Child Development, at blackwell-synergy.com/loi/CDEV.

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