Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Study Shows Bigger Babies Have Early Intelligence Edge

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Study Shows Bigger Babies Have Early Intelligence Edge

Article excerpt

LONDON -- In the biggest study to date examining the influence of birth weight on intelligence, scientists writing in the British Medical Journal have found that babies born on the heavy side of normal tend to be brighter as adults.

Experts have long known that premature or underweight babies tend to be less intelligent as children.

But the study, published this week, found that among children whose birth weight was higher than 5.5 pounds -- considered to be normal -- the bigger the baby, the smarter it was likely to be.

Scientists think it has something to do with bigger babies having bigger brains, or perhaps with having more connections within their brains.

But the lead researcher on the project said there was no need for parents of smaller infants to despair -- the results were averages and size at birth doesn't necessarily determine intellectual destiny.

"Birth weight is only one of numerous factors that influence cognitive function. It may not actually be a very powerful one," said Marcus Richards, a psychologist at Britain's Medical Research Council who conducted the study.

Richards said the head start enjoyed by hefty babies can be squandered. Living in an overcrowded home, breathing polluted air or being caught in the middle of a divorce tend to diminish children's intelligence scores, he said.

The scientists found that birth size influenced intelligence until about the age of 26. After that, it tended to even out, as other factors began to play a more important role.

The study did not offer concrete examples, such as how many IQ points' advantage a 10-pound baby might have over a 7-pound baby. And of course, there are always exceptions.

The research involved 3,900 British men and women who were born in 1946 and followed since birth. Their intelligence was measured by a battery of tests at the ages of 8, 11, 15, 26 and 43. …

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