New research looks at how DNA influences academic achievement, and let's just say, it does. A lot.
Credit: Shutterstock

Academic achievement may be predetermined, according to a new study out of King's College London, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Researchers say the deciding factor in how well kids do academically by age 16 is in their DNA. No, not even perseverance can compensate for what your mama (and papa) gave ya.

According to Science Daily, researchers looked at 5,825 unrelated people from the Twins Early Development Study and how well they did in math and English at three ages: 7, 12 and 16. The researchers determined that DNA is responsible for 10 percent of the differences in academic achievement.

A participant's polygenic score, which is basically a measure of how certain genes influence traits—in this case, academic achievement—was linked to how well he or she performed on academic tests. Those with a higher score earned a grade between A and B; lower scores equated to lower test scores.

So does that mean if your parents didn't go to Harvard, you are doomed? That certainly isn't the point of the research. Instead, scientists hope this data may help potentially academically challenged kids get the help they need, earlier.

Indeed, study author Saskia Selzam, at Ph.D. student at the Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre at King's College London, explains, "We believe that, very soon, polygenic scores will be used to identify individuals who are at greater risk of having learning difficulties." She adds, "Through polygenic scoring, we found that almost 10 percent of the differences between children's achievement is due to DNA alone. 10 percent is a long way from 100 percent but it is a lot better than we usually do in predicting behavior. For instance, when we think about differences between boys and girls in maths, gender explains around one percent of the variance. Another example is 'grit', which describes the perseverance of an individual, and only predicts around five percent of the variance in educational achievement."

The takeaway: If test scores weren't your strong suit, you may want to keep a close eye on your kiddo, and get help if needed to boost his or her academic success.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.