Women hoping to produce the next Einstein may want to try harnessing the power of positivity during pregnancy, researchers say.
A new study, published in journal Frontiers In Psychology, suggests the attitudes of expectant mothers could affect their child’s ability in maths and science.
Pregnant women with a personality attribute known as an internal locus of control were more likely to go on to have a child who performs well in the two subjects, the University of Bristol analysis found.
People with an internal locus of control believe they can influence the outcome of events in their life and are likely to be motivated into action.
Meanwhile, those with an external locus of control think that events are dictated by forces beyond their control and so may feel there is little point in making effort.
The researchers used data from the Children Of The 90s study, analysing the responses of 1,600 pregnant women and the later mathematical scientific reasoning and problem-solving skills of their children.
Professor Jean Golding, lead author and founder of the Children Of The 90s study, said it was widely accepted that a child’s locus of control was linked to their academic achievements.
However, little was known about the effect of a mother’s locus of control during pregnancy.
Professor Golding said: “If our findings that mothers’ attitudes and behaviours can have an effect on their child’s academic abilities can be replicated, it would suggest that more efforts should be made to increase the opportunities for mothers to feel that their behaviours will have a positive outcome for themselves and their children.
“It would help future generations raise healthy, confident and independent children.”
Mothers with an internal locus of control were also more likely to provide their children with diets beneficial to brain development, more frequently read stories to them and to show interest in their child’s homework and academic progress, the study found.
The researchers noted that the findings only show a relationship between the mother’s locus of control and a child’s outcomes, and said more work is needed to explore cause and effect.