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Learn Individ Differ. 2012 Feb 1;22(1):37-45. Epub 2011 Dec 9.

Learning Motivation Mediates Gene-by-Socioeconomic Status Interaction on Mathematics Achievement in Early Childhood.

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Department of Psychology and Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin.

Abstract

There is accumulating evidence that genetic influences on achievement are more pronounced among children living in higher socioeconomic status homes, and that these gene-by-environment interactions occur prior to children's entry into formal schooling. We hypothesized that one pathway through which socioeconomic status promotes genetic influences on early achievement is by facilitating the processes by which children select, evoke, and attend to learning experiences that are consistent with genetically influenced individual differences in their motivation to learn. We examined this hypothesis in a nationally representative sample of approximately 650 pairs of four-year old identical and fraternal twins who were administered a measure of math achievement, and rated by their parents on a broad set of items assessing learning motivation. Results indicated a genetic link between learning motivation and math achievement that varied positively with family socioeconomic status: Genetic differences in learning motivation contributed to math achievement more strongly in more advantaged homes. Once this effect of learning motivation was controlled for, gene-by-socioeconomic status interaction on math achievement was reduced from previously significant levels, to nonsignificant levels.

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