child drawing
August 20, 2014

Children’s Drawings May Be Predictor Of Later Intelligence

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

When your children are little, their drawings take a place of pride on your refrigerator, whether or not you can tell what they meant to draw. Have you ever wondered, though, what those drawings might mean? According to a new study from King's College London, to be published in Psychological Science, how a 4-year old child draws pictures of other children could be a predictor of intelligence by age 14.

The researchers collected data from the Medical Research Council (MRC) funded Twins Early Development Study (TEDS). They analyzed data from 7,752 pairs of identical and non-identical twins (with a total of 15,504 children), finding that the association between early drawing and later intelligence is genetic.

The children were asked by their parents to complete a "Draw-a-Child" test (drawing a picture of a child) at the age of four. The drawings were scored between 0 and 12, depending on the presence and correct quantity of body features — i.e. arms, legs, eyes, nose, mouth, etc. A drawing with two legs, two arms, a body and a head, but missing facial features, scored a four, for example. At the ages of four and 14, the children were given non-verbal and verbal intelligence tests.

A higher score on the Draw-a-Child test was found to be moderately linked to higher scores on intelligence tests at both four and 14 years of age. At age four, the correlation was 0.33 and at age 14 it was 0.20.

According to Dr. Rosalind Arden, from the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, "The Draw-a-Child test was devised in the 1920's to assess children's intelligence, so the fact that the test correlated with intelligence at age 4 was expected. What surprised us was that it correlated with intelligence a decade later.

"The correlation is moderate, so our findings are interesting, but it does not mean that parents should worry if their child draws badly. Drawing ability does not determine intelligence, there are countless factors, both genetic and environmental, which affect intelligence in later life."

Part of the study was focused on the heritability of figure drawing. Identical twins share 100 percent of their genes, while fraternal twins share only about 50 percent. Fraternal twins do share similar upbringing, family environment and access to the same materials, however.

The researchers found that, at age 4, the identical twins were more likely to create similar drawings than the fraternal twins, indicating that differences in children's drawings have an important genetic component. They also found a strong genetic association between drawing at age four and intelligence at age 14.

Dr. Arden explained, "This does not mean that there is a drawing gene – a child's ability to draw stems from many other abilities, such as observing, holding a pencil etc. We are a long way off understanding how genes influence all these different types of behavior.

"Drawing is an ancient behavior, dating back beyond 15,000 years ago. Through drawing, we are attempting to show someone else what's in our mind. This capacity to reproduce figures is a uniquely human ability and a sign of cognitive ability, in a similar way to writing, which transformed the human species' ability to store information, and build a civilization."

The Telegraph cautions parents of non-artistic children not to worry. The ability to draw does not determine intelligence, which is determined instead by a wide range of factors, it is only a way to predict intelligence.

"We found evidence of a small link between early drawing and later intelligence," Dr. Arden said in an email interview with the Huffington Post. "If you, or your child, are of the Klutz school of drawers, that’s nothing to worry about. Nothing in our data says that parents should do anything but enjoy their kids’ drawings."

Image 2 (below): Examples of children's drawings. Scores are from left to right: Top: 6,10,6; Bottom: 6,10,7. Credit: Twins Early Development Study, King's College London


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