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The Impact of Environmental and Biological Factors on Intelligence and Achievement: Essay

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Defining Achievement and Intelligence

There are different definitions and classifications of intelligence; however, most scholars agree that intelligence is the ability to use different mental abilities. According to Sternberg’s triarchic theory of successful intelligence, people have analytical, creative, and practical intelligence (Berk, 163). Intelligence consists of different components, which are influenced by biological and environmental factors.

The term “achievement” is related only to a cognitive process. In other words, the achievement is acquired skill or knowledge related only to the cognitive component of intelligence. The higher intelligence, the better achievements person will have. For

The Impact of Family-Related Factors On Intelligence and Achievement

The financial condition of a family as well as genetic factors, have a great influence on achievements. Financial condition is an environmental factor and can influence both the intelligence and achievements of people. Poverty may lead to poor intelligence and low results in achievements because poor people have no possibility of receiving a good education and suffer from numerous unhealthy behaviors. For example, a mother having financial problems during pregnancy may be exposed to stress and drinking, which will directly influence the health and intellectual abilities of her child in the future. People belonging to middle and upper social classes are usually more educated and have better results in different achievements. Genetic factors also have a great influence on the intellectual abilities of a human being. The study made by Schermer et al. (2015) emphasizes that genetic component influences different dimensions of intelligence.

How Unhealthy Behaviors And Genetic Factors Influence Intelligence and Achievement?

As it was mentioned above, intelligence level might be negatively influenced by unhealthy behaviors, stress, and other factors inherent to people with low income. Alcohol and drugs destroy synapses in the brain and negatively influence IQ. The academic achievements of children from low-income families are also worse than the achievements of children from middle or upper-class families. According to Pungello et al. (1996), children from low-income families had bad results in reading and math. It can be explained by the fact that living in a stressful environment negatively contributes to the ability of children to focus on academics. In addition, it is impossible for low-income families to provide children with different educational materials, such as books, educational games, or computers. (Christenson et al., 1992).

Genetic factors also have a great impact on intellectual abilities and achievements. According to a study by Guo (1998), a mother’s cognitive ability is a strong predictor of children’s cognitive performance during tests. Moreover, the IQ scores of identical twins are almost similar, which means that IQ is directly connected to heredity (Berk, p. 169). In addition, heredity may contribute to different unhealthy conditions and genetic diseases. For example, children may suffer from myopia, obesity, autism, and numerous other problems influenced by heredity. If a child is obese, then it is likely that he or she will show poor sporting achievements, and it would be difficult for this child to become integrated into society. Children suffering from autism also have numerous problems related to intelligence and achievements. They are not able to focus on different tasks and can’t study as effectively as usual children. However, it is important to remember that bad genetics can be compensated for by a caring and loving environment. Some studies have shown that adopted children having biological mothers with low IQ scores were eventually able to achieve above-average IQ scores because they were adopted by loving and caring families (Berk, p. 169). Apparently, both genetic and environmental factors contribute almost equally to IQ scores. It is possible to use environmental factors to make a child more educated and intelligent, even if the child’s IQ was negatively influenced by genetic factors.


Berk, L. E. (2010). Development through the lifespan (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Christenson, S. L., Rounds, T., & Gorney, D. (1992). Family factors and student achievement: An avenue to increase students’ success. School Psychology Quarterly7(3), 178.

Guo, G. (1998). The timing of the influences of cumulative poverty on children’s cognitive ability and achievement. Social Forces77(1), 257-287.

Pungello, E. P., Kupersmidt, J. B., Burchinal, M. R., & Patterson, C. J. (1996). Environmental risk factors and children’s achievement from middle childhood to early adolescence. Developmental Psychology32(4), 755.

Schermer, J. A., Johnson, A. M., Jang, K. L., & Vernon, P. A. (2015). Phenotypic, Genetic, and Environmental Relationships Between Self-Reported Talents and Measured Intelligence. Twin Research and Human Genetics18(01), 36-42.

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