Positivity During Pregnancy Could Lead to Kids Being Better at Science

A long-term study followed pregnant women in the 1990s and tested their children's science-related aptitudes while growing up.
Loukia Papadopoulos

In what may be the strangest news this week, a new study is revealing that positive thinking during pregnancy may lead to having children that are better at math and science. The long term quirky research began all the way back in the 1990s.


Locus of control

Scientists at the University of Bristol began studying 1600 pregnant women in the 90s while evaluating their attitudes toward life. More specifically they had them fill out questionnaires that identified their 'locus of control'.

This is a psychological term that refers to the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of their lives. Those with an internal locus of control believe they influence their lives' paths whereas those with an external one believe that what they do matters little because luck dictates their fates.

They then evaluated these women's children at the ages of 8, 11 and 13 with further tests meant to assess their problem-solving skills and aptitude in the science fields including mathematics. What they found was nothing short of impressive.

Mothers who exhibited an internal locus of control were not only more likely to have children who were good at science topics, they were also more likely to provide their children with the things needed for a high scientific ability such as proper diets and support with their academic work.

"It is widely known that the locus of control of a child is strongly associated with their academic achievements but until now we didn't know if mothers' locus of control orientation during pregnancy had a role to play in early childhood. Thanks to the longitudinal data from Children of the 90s study we can now make these associations," said lead author and founder of the study Professor Jean Golding OBE.


"If our findings, that mothers' attitudes and behaviors can have an effect on their child's academic abilities, can be replicated it would suggest that more efforts should be made to increase the opportunities for mothers to feel that their behaviors will have a positive outcome for themselves and their children. It would help future generations raise healthy, confident and independent childr.en."

Of course, it is hard to determine whether it was their positivity during pregnancy that led to the increased science aptitudes in their children or whether it was the proper care the mothers showed as their kids were growing up. As such, more work needs to be done with the study.

Changing outlooks

However, parents who may have had an external locus of control need not despair. There is still time to change things and adopt a more empowering attitude for their children's sake.

"It is possible for a parent to change their outlook; we've demonstrated in the past that parents who become more internal (i.e. learn to see the connections between what they do and what happens to their children) improved their parenting skills which would have a positive effect on their children's personal, social and academic lives," explained Candler Professor of Psychology Stephen Nowicki at Emory University, Atlanta, a co-author, and expert on locus of control.

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