Early life predictors of intelligence in young adulthood and middle age

Trine Flensborg-Madsen, Hanne-Lise Falgreen Eriksen, Erik Lykke Mortensen
PloS One 2020, 15 (1): e0228144

BACKGROUND: Studies on early predictors of intelligence often focus on single or few predictors and often on childhood intelligence. This study compared the contributions of a broad selection of potential early predictors of intelligence at different adult ages.

METHODS: Information on predictors was recorded prospectively in the Copenhagen Perinatal Cohort during pregnancy, at delivery, and at 1- and 3-year examinations for children born between 1959-61. Adult intelligence was assessed at three independent follow-ups using three different tests of intelligence: Børge Priens Prøve, Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, and Intelligenz-Struktur-Test 2000R. From a total of 4697 cohort members, three non-overlapping samples were derived.

RESULTS: The included predictors explained between 22.2-24.3% of the variance in adult IQ, with parental socioeconomic status and sex explaining 16.2-17.0%. Other consistent predictors were head circumference at birth, increase in head circumference head during the first three years, and 3-year milestones. Head circumference was the most important anthropometric measure compared to measures of weight and length.

CONCLUSION: Besides social status and sex, the strongest and most consistent early predictors of adult intelligence were physical or behavioural characteristics that to some extent reflect brain-and cognitive development.

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