Early life predictors of childhood intelligence: findings from the Mater-University study of pregnancy and its outcomes

Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2006 Mar;20(2):148-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3016.2006.00704.x.


Growing evidence linking childhood intelligence with adult health outcomes suggests a need to identify predictors of this psychological characteristic. In this study, we have examined the early life determinants of childhood intelligence in a population-based birth cohort of individuals born in Brisbane, Australia between 1981 and 1984. In univariable analyses, family income in the year of birth, maternal and paternal education, maternal age at birth, maternal ethnicity, maternal smoking during pregnancy, duration of labour, birthweight, breast feeding and childhood height, and body mass index were all associated with intelligence at age 14. In multivariable analyses, the strongest and most robust predictors of intelligence were family income, parental education and breast feeding, with these three variables explaining 7.5% of the variation in intelligence at age 14. Addition of other variables added little further explanatory power. Our results demonstrate the importance of indicators of socio-economic position as predictors of intelligence, and illustrate the need to consider the role of such factors in generating the association of childhood intelligence with adult disease risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Asia / ethnology
  • Birth Weight
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Breast Feeding / epidemiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Intelligence*
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Parents
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology
  • Queensland / epidemiology
  • Smoking / epidemiology