Discussion: Environmental and Biological Effects on Intelligence and Achievement

Discussion: Environmental and Biological Effects on Intelligence and Achievement

Sample Answer for Discussion: Environmental and Biological Effects on Intelligence and Achievement Included After Question

Discussion: Environmental and Biological Effects on Intelligence and Achievement


Intelligence tests are controversial, partly because they sometimes determine important aspects of people’s lives. For example, intelligence test scores have factored into determining school placement, identifying giftedness, and diagnosing mental retardation and learning disabilities. Even when an intelligence test shows that a child has normal intelligence, there might be speculation of a learning disability due to him or her falling behind in academic achievement. A child’s biology and environment influences his or her academic achievement, as well. Children from different cultures and socioeconomic status have diverse experiences, beliefs, and attitudes that affect their academic achievement. There are also differences in skills that caregivers emphasize during a child’s development that contribute to a child’s school readiness, which influences intelligence and academic achievement.

Discussion: Environmental and Biological Effects on Intelligence and Achievement
Discussion: Environmental and Biological Effects on Intelligence and Achievement

Intelligence and academic achievement are often used to determine many aspects of a person’s life, including the diagnosis of a learning disability.Most identifiers of learning disabilities are seen within the realm of intelligence and achievement. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 is an example of a federal mandate that allows for identification of indicators of learning disabilities, such as limited response to intervention or a meaningful discrepancy between a student’s intelligence and achievement scores. When diagnosing a learning disability in determining a child’s intelligence, a combination of indicators is more accurate than a single test score.

For this Discussion, you will explore the differences between intelligence and academic achievement (as opposed to other types of achievement). You also will examine environmental and/or biological influences on intelligence and academic achievement.

To prepare for this Discussion:

  • Review this week’s Learning Resources related to intelligence and academic achievement and consider environmental and biological influences.
  • Select two influences: environmental and/or biological (you can select two of either category or one of each) that have been associated with intelligence and academic achievement.

Post an explanation of the difference between intelligence and academic achievement. Then, briefly describe the two environmental and/or biological influences you selected. Explain the effects of each influence on intelligence and academic achievement.


Berk, L. E. (2018). Development through the lifespan (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

  • Chapter 7, “Physical and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood” (pp. 214–253)
  • Chapter 9, “Physical and Cognitive Development in Middle Childhood” (pp. 292-331)

Liu, J., Li, L., Wang, Y., Yan, C., & Liu, X. (2013). Impact of low blood lead concentrations on IQ and school performance in Chinese children. Plos ONE, 8(5), e65230. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065230
Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.

Nisbett, R. E., Aronson, J., Blair, C., Dickens, W., Flynn, J., Halpern, D. F., & Turkheimer, E. (2012). Intelligence: New findings and theoretical developments. American Psychologist, 67(2), 130–159. doi:10.1037/a0026699
Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.


Films Media Group. (Producer). (2007). Intellectual growth and achievement: Human development—Enhancing social and cognitive growth in children [Video file]. Part of the Series: Human Development: Enhancing Social and Cognitive Growth in Children. New

A Sample Answer For the Assignment: Discussion: Environmental and Biological Effects on Intelligence and Achievement

Title: Discussion: Environmental and Biological Effects on Intelligence and Achievement

Intellectual Growth and Achievement Intellectual Growth and Achievement Program Transcript [MUSIC PLAYING] FEMALE SPEAKER: I’m going to be working in a preschool. I want to help kids get a good start in school. Good grades, good motivation, all the things that will help them to be successful. FEMALE SPEAKER: We’re planning to have a family in the next year or so. And we want our daughter-MALE SPEAKER: Son-FEMALE SPEAKER: –to be as bright and smart as possible. Is there anything we can do now that will make a difference? MALE SPEAKER: My wife and I have two foster children. They’ve had a hard time of it. They’re really behind in talking. Is there something we can do to help? MALE SPEAKER: I’m taking a growth and development course and find the material on intellectual development fascinating. I’m interested in what can be done to help little kids become good students in school. NARRATOR: The possibility of promoting the intellectual growth of young children so that they do well in school and become high-achieving adults is of great interest to teachers, parents, and others concerned with children’s growth and development. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. There is, however, fascinating research on cognitive development and school achievement that can offer interested adults some broad guidelines. First, it is important to note that unless hampered by extreme deprivation or brain injury most young children quickly learn the cognitive skills required by their culture and their environment. The intellectual skills that are regarded as necessary are culture specific. In some cultures, the necessary skills might be prowess as a hunter or superior ability as a navigator. In the United States, the cognitive skills deemed most necessary by the culture are mathematics and especially language skills, which include reading, writing, and speaking. Preparation for most professions requires reading and comprehending large amounts of printed material often in a short period of time combined with a writing of papers or reports. Language skills are necessary for almost all workers. And in most white and blue collar jobs, power and status are awarded to those individuals who use language most effectively. 1 Intellectual Growth and Achievement Although much is known about cognitive development in childhood, myths and misunderstandings abound. One myth is that the traits the child displays very early predict capabilities later in life. The reality is that it is extremely difficult to predict future competencies. A toddler who begins talking at an early age will not necessarily be the highly articulate speaker at high school graduation. He or she may have attained that ability relatively early in life. But as other children catch up the advantage can be lost. Also, a young child’s strengths may shift. An infant who walks early, but begins talking a little later than average may by the age of four not be particularly well coordinated, but instead be quite verbal. MALE SPEAKER: I got this for Christmas. What did you get for Christmas? MALE CHILD: I got a new bike and a new helmet. NARRATOR: Another common myth regards the relationship between selfesteem and school achievement. Programs designed to raise self-esteem have, in general, failed to change academic performance. MALE SPEAKER: Boy, John, you can really throw that football. JOHN: Thanks. MALE SPEAKER: You’re doing a great job. NARRATOR: One reason for the failure may be that self-esteem is specific to a particular area of a child’s life. Making a child feel good about athletic ability or general worth as a person will not transfer to academic performance. Any efforts to raise self-esteem should focus on those specific areas in which the child is having problems. FEMALE SPEAKER: John, you’re really doing a lot better in your math. JOHN: Thank you. NARRATOR: Another myth concerns the importance of hands-on activities for preschool children. Although it is true that having children manipulate materials or physically work on a project helps to maintain their interest and attention, preschool children who only observe a particular activity recall information just as well as children who actively participate in the activity. And even after a delay of a day the observers remember just as well as the active participants. A final myth usually associated with older children is that a child who shows extreme talent in one cognitive area, such as mathematics, has the same degree of competence in other areas. Instead, many authorities believe that children 2 Intellectual Growth and Achievement have specific patterns of cognitive abilities. One child may excel at visualizing spatial relationships while another may demonstrate superb verbal skills. In addition to being aware of myths about cognitive growth, it is useful to compare the roles of heredity and environment on that growth. Using either adoption studies or twin studies researchers have been examining the influences of heredity and environment for many years. In adoption studies, researchers give IQ tests to children and adolescents who were adopted at a very early age. And subsequently, had little or no contact with their biological parents. Intelligence tests are also administered to the biological parents and the adoptive parents. Genetic influences would cause the child’s IQ to be closer to the IQs of the biological parents than to the adoptive parents. Environmental influences, on the other hand, would cause the child’s IQ to resemble the IQs of the adoptive parents in whose home the child was raised. The results of most adoption studies indicate a closer correlation between the IQ of these children and their biological parents than between the children and their adoptive parents. Thus, heredity seems to influence the IQ more than does environment. This result is also found in twin studies in which the similarity of IQs of identical twins who share 100% of their genes is compared to the similarity of IQs of same-sex fraternal twins who share 50% of their genes. Identical twins are more similar on intelligence tests than are fraternal twins, which again points to the importance of heredity. However, it would be incorrect to conclude based on these results that biology is destiny. Other studies demonstrate the influence of environment. Consider the situation when upper income parents adopt babies from biological parents who are unskilled and have low incomes. Research suggests that IQs of the adopted children are similar to the IQs of other children in the upper income group, which is about 14 points higher than the IQs of other children of unskilled low-income parents. Also among these adopted children only 12% experience school failure versus 70% of the children who remained with their own low-income families. Thus while it is extremely difficult to assess their separate influences, both heredity and environment contribute to a child’s intellectual growth. The child has potential ability that is determined by heredity, but her environment determines how well that ability will develop. Some physical and environmental factors negatively affect intellectual development. Their prevention or early recognition and treatment is an extremely important way to maximize the child’s cognitive potential. Some factors negatively affect the child even before birth. For example, severe maternal malnutrition with inadequate intake of protein in calories and certain diseases 3 Intellectual Growth and Achievement during pregnancy, such as rubella or German measles, have harmful effects on the child’s later intellectual development. Drugs or alcohol consumed by the pregnant woman also have negative effects. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 children a year are born with learning impairments related to their mother’s use of alcohol during pregnancy. There is also a relationship between maternal smoking during pregnancy and the child’s cognitive functioning. Children of mothers who smoked heavily during pregnancy are by age 7 twice as likely to experience failure in school as children whose mothers did not smoke. Smoking, along with other factors such as having a baby during the teenage years, increase the chance of having a low birth weight baby. A child who is born with a birth weight under 5 and 1/2 pounds is at an increased risk for developmental delay or cognitive deficits. Although most of these infants catch up during their first year of life some, especially those born with a very low birth weight, are left with residual developmental delays. Research suggests that the quality of the home environment affects the rate of recovery. Low birth weight babies who receive optimal care are more likely to develop normally than those raised in suboptimal environments. Hearing problems may also cause children to fall behind in cognitive development. Some hearing losses from fluid in the middle ear, frequent colds, or ear wax in the ear canal may come and go. Thus caregivers may be unaware of the deficit, reporting only that the child has been stubborn and will not obey or that the child pretends not to hear when spoken to. There are indications that children with even mild hearing losses have limited vocabulary, less well-developed language skills, and academic retardation, especially when performance depends on language comprehension and use. Diagnosing hearing loss is extremely important because a delay in language development has been shown to be the single best predictor of learning problems later in life. The child’s nutritional deficiency is also a factor. For example, iron deficiency in infants even without anemia has been shown to cause lowered intellectual development and behavioral problems, such as a shortened attention span and irritability. Head trauma, particularly that caused when the caregiver shakes the baby, can cause permanent loss of intellectual abilities, as well as blindness and sometimes loss of life. Babies are particularly susceptible to brain trauma from shaking because their weak neck muscles and large heavy heads in proportion to the rest of their bodies make them unable to withstand whiplash motions. Prevention includes teaching caregivers about the dangers of shaking babies, helping them recognize when they are losing control , and planning with them how to obtain assistance. 4 Intellectual Growth and Achievement Another and a common factor that appears to have a negative effect on cognitive functioning is lead poisoning. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that approximately 3 million children have blood levels high enough to affect intelligence and development. The major cause of lead poisoning includes living in buildings in which paint, dust, and water are contaminated with lead. These are often older buildings erected before lead-based paint was prohibited. Children living in these homes can become poisoned by eating paint chips or by drinking lead-contaminated water. Although children with low levels of lead in their blood do not have any obvious symptoms, they frequently have impaired concentration and hyperactivity and show decreased abilities on tests of intellectual performance. When measures are taken, however, to rid the environment of lead the levels of lead in the blood will gradually decrease. And some studies show that over time there is a corresponding improvement in the child’s cognitive functioning. To review, physical and environmental factors that affect cognitive functioning include maternal malnutrition, certain communicable diseases such as rubella, maternal consumption of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, low birth weight, hearing loss, nutritional deficiencies, head trauma, and lead poisoning. The psychological learning environment– that is the attitudes of the child’s community and family-are extremely important in influencing intellectual development and achievement. One attitudinal factor is the expectations of the child’s ethnic or cultural group. Some place a higher value on intellectual achievement than do others. In general, preschool children cannot evaluate their own intellectual abilities. They are usually optimistic about their talents. After all, they know they have greatly improved from what they were able to do just a short time ago. However, school age children increasingly are forced to compare themselves with others and form ideas about their own intellectual abilities and shortcomings. Many cultures, especially the Asian, value and thus place great emphasis on intellectual performance. These parents encourage their children to excel at school and use competition to sharpen skills. The children who comply tend to become successful in academic endeavors. In other cultures, however, there is a tendency to avoid intellectual competition. This situation may sometimes occur because the larger society has low expectations for the group. In time, such expectations become internalized by the group and to some extent cause attitudes and behaviors which negatively affect intellectual performance of some of its members. For example, these children do not try to compete at school. And those who do achieve academically are accused of deserting their peers. The perception and expectation that individuals have about the causes of their successes or failures are called attributions. There are four attributions that 5 Intellectual Growth and Achievement people often use to explain success or failure in any given task. Ability, effort, luck, and the ease or difficulty of the specific task. The particular attributions a child customarily uses determines his or her future actions. All children, of course, experience some failures in performing cognitive tasks. However, those who have the perception that they are not as intelligent as others tend to attribute their failure to an inherited lack of ability. Consequently, they are not likely to extend the effort needed to try again to accomplish the task. On the other hand, children who are confident of their intellectual competence tend to attribute their failure to inadequate effort rather than inability. This is correctable, and these children are likely to try harder the next time. In general, the attributions a child uses are modeled from those used by caregivers and others or are subtly conveyed to the child by the school. Another significant factor in intellectual growth and achievement is social class. In most studies of children the mother’s educational level and social class are the best predictors of the child’s IQ at four years of age. Children from upper class families score higher than children from lower class families. This is a universal finding. One possible explanation for the lower class scores is that the combined effects of limited education, poverty, low expectancy of success, and poor health and nutrition lower the children’s motivation to achieve and sense of personal power. Another explanation is that differences in parenting styles may play a role. One large difference between middle class and lower class parents is in their use of language when interacting with their infants. Middle class parents are more likely to play language games with them, to respond quickly to their early vocalizations, and to continue to talk to them once the infants stop making sounds. Discipline styles also differ. Middle class mothers tend to explain the reasons for their actions, emphasize the child’s feelings, and make the child aware of all the factors that affect the parent’s decisions. In general, their discipline is child centered. Lower class parents, on the other hand, usually emphasize their greater power and status and are more likely to stress conformity and obedience to the parent’s wishes. Their discipline is parent centered. CHILD: I want to play outside. FEMALE SPEAKER: No. Not now. CHILD: I want to play outside. FEMALE SPEAKER: I said no. 6 Intellectual Growth and Achievement NARRATOR: Children in lower class families have parents who are generally more prohibitive and restrictive of actions and play with their children less frequently than parents in middle class homes. Moreover, these parents often fail to encourage academic achievement and are not good role models for achievement because they themselves typically show less interest in the mastery of intellectual skills. And consequently, their children are less likely to engage in the complex thinking and problem solving skills that are required for optimum cognitive development. To review, the child’s intellectual growth is influenced by the expectations of the child’s ethnic or cultural group, the attributions the child has learned from caregivers and others, and the child’s social class. The home environment has been shown to be extremely important to the child’s cognitive development. There is a strong relationship between this setting and a child’s intellectual and language development during the preschool years. Most authorities agree though that parents should act like parents not school teachers. Pushing a three or four-year-old to read or imposing high-pressure learning situations can be counterproductive, particularly if the young child experiences early failure. The child may turn off or begin to resist learning. Studies have shown, however, that parental involvement is extremely important. Young children do better both in terms of achievement and IQ scores when their parents are affectionate and verbally active and responsive. Other parental qualities that positively affect the child’s intellectual growth are acceptance of the child. FEMALE SPEAKER: Wow, your hands are pretty messy. But I love you anyways. NARRATOR: Concern for the child’s feelings. FEMALE SPEAKER: Did you like what you did, Ashley? NARRATOR: And flexibility. MALE SPEAKER: Oh, that’s nice, Nicole. You can make whatever you want. NARRATOR: Because young children learn through their play, parents can help by providing a variety of play materials that are appropriate to the child’s age and stage of development. Parental affection also positively affects the child’s willingness to explore and take risks, both of which may increase cognitive development. A variety of daily activities also seems to be helpful. For example, a child can learn from a trip to the park or a grocery store. Research on the home 7 Intellectual Growth and Achievement environment of young children suggests that caregivers who have a physically responsive home and who allow children to explore and who have set times for events, such as bedtime and meals, provide an atmosphere that is related to cognitive development in a positive way. In contrast, too much noise and confusion, a common situation in many homes, can be detrimental to the child’s development. Another area of research is the role of television. Does it contribute or detract from achievement? The National Assessment of Educational Progress found that fourth grade children who watch three hours or less a day had the best reading scores and children who viewed six hours or more of TV each day had the lowest. However, the correlation between TV watching and poor reading does not imply causality. Too much TV may cause poor reading, but it may also be that an inability to enjoy books and magazines causes children to watch more TV. MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING SPANISH]. NARRATOR: It is known, however, that language development is facilitated when caregivers talk with their children as much as possible. MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING SPANISH]. NARRATOR: A one-to-one conversation is much more effective than if the child just listens to two adults speaking to each other or sits in front of the television. MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING SPANISH]. FEMALE CHILD: [SPEAKING SPANISH] MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING SPANISH]. FEMALE CHILD: [SPEAKING SPANISH]. NARRATOR: And the one-to-one conversation should center on the child’s interest at the moment. Listening by the caregiver is also important. If necessary, adults should guess with their toddler is saying. FEMALE CHILD: [SPEAKING SPANISH]. MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING SPANISH]. NARRATOR: The more the child perceives that the adult is trying to understand, the greater the child’s output. 8 Intellectual Growth and Achievement MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING SPANISH]. FEMALE CHILD: [SPEAKING SPANISH]. MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING SPANISH]. NARRATOR: Reading to children also increases their language skills. It is thought that children benefit because they can develop a sense of narrative and learn to use words in an imaginative context. MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING SPANISH]. NARRATOR: Reading the exact words in the text of the story will help children learn many aspects of language. But parents should also make an effort to engage children in the story by asking questions and pointing out illustrations. MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING SPANISH]. NARRATOR: Some research even suggests that the most effective reading intervention is an approach that allows and encourages the child to make up a story to accompany the illustrations. Another factor, the subject of parental and teacher feedback, particularly praise, has been studied primarily in regard to influencing the young child’s interest in a subject. One fascinating finding is that when young children enjoy an activity and need little or no encouragement to engage in it-FEMALE SPEAKER: Girls, looks like you’re doing a good job here. NARRATOR: –the giving of a reward, either praise or a concrete symbol, can have the effect of lessening the child’s interest in a task. Furthermore, some believe that a teacher or parent who gives praise for a less than optimal performance prevents the child from understanding the relationship between effort and performance. And older children quickly perceive that the praise is not genuine. FEMALE SPEAKER: How pretty. Very good. Let me see. That’s very nice. NARRATOR: However, adults can legitimately give positive feedback for effort when it is present, even though the product or end result may not be optimal. To review, positive factors in the child’s home environment include high parental involvement, flexibility, acceptance of the child, and concern for the child’s feelings, a variety of appropriate play materials and experiences, and communication with interested adults are also helpful. Some guidelines to help children build confidence and become high-achieving individuals have been developed by Bruce Baldwin, noted psychologist and 9 Intellectual Growth and Achievement author. When children have a project, Baldwin cautions parents to make a clear distinction between helping out and taking over. He advises them to allow their child to set the tone and to make mistakes without feeling ashamed. This does not mean, however, that parents should not talk with their child about the project. They should, but in an optimistic and casual way. MALE SPEAKER: That’s a good idea, Nikki. We had a [INAUDIBLE], huh? Go ahead and make that book up and we will look at it later on. NARRATOR: Parents can also help build confidence by encouraging the child to think through a project ahead of time and discouraging her from rushing into a situation that could result in unnecessary mistakes. MALE SPEAKER: OK, what else do you need from me for you guys to do that book? NARRATOR: Parents can also help by being resource persons and assisting their children to find the answers without doing it for them. MALE SPEAKER: You know what? I have another brochure that has a map of it, the place where we went for vacation. I’ll go get it for us, OK? NARRATOR: Failure should be treated as an inevitable and necessary part of success. If the child asks for help the parent should assist in an analysis of what went wrong and in the development of strategies to overcome the problem. MALE SPEAKER: Here’s how you do it. Look at the paper right here. You put the paper in straight like that. Push it in, make it even, at then you press it down. NARRATOR: Parents should also reinforce personal responsibility for the actions taken and not allow the child to blame circumstances or other people for the failure. MALE SPEAKER: What you have to do to just move those [INAUDIBLE] inside. NARRATOR: Parents should also encourage their children to finish what they start and to persevere in spite of obstacles. FEMALE CHILD: Dad, I’m tired of doing this. MALE SPEAKER: You know what? I think you’re going to have to finish up what you start with. And you’re going to like it after you finish. OK? You better finish. NARRATOR: There is then much that caregivers can do to enhance a child’s cognitive development. Women considering pregnancy should discontinue the 10 Intellectual Growth and Achievement use of harmful substances, such as alcohol and tobacco. And after the child is born caregivers should be alert for potential problems, especially less obvious ones, such as hearing loss or lead poisoning. They should talk to their children, provide them with appropriate toys, and allow them to safely explore their environment. They should praise them for their genuine achievements and efforts and encourage them to persevere and succeed. It is behaviors such as these by caregivers, parents, and professionals that can help children develop their intellectual capacity to the fullest. [MUSIC PLAYING] Intellectual Growth and Achievement Content Attribution Intellectual Growth and Achievement: Human Development – Enhancing Social and Cognitive Growth in Children [Video]. (2007). Used by permission of Films Media Group 11