Socioeconomic status and the growth of intelligence from infancy through adolescence

Von Stumm, Sophie and Plomin, Robert. 2015. Socioeconomic status and the growth of intelligence from infancy through adolescence. Intelligence, 48, pp. 30-36. ISSN 0160-2896 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Low socioeconomic status (SES) children perform on average worse on intelligence tests than children from higher SES backgrounds, but the developmental relationship between intelligence and SES has not been adequately investigated. Here, we use latent growth curve (LGC) models to assess associations between SES and individual differences in the intelligence starting point (intercept) and in the rate and direction of change in scores (slope and quadratic term) from infancy through adolescence in 14,853 children from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), assessed 9 times on IQ between the ages of 2 and 16 years. SES was significantly associated with intelligence growth factors: higher SES was related both to a higher starting point in infancy and to greater gains in intelligence over time. Specifically, children from low SES families scored on average 6 IQ points lower at age 2 than children from high SES backgrounds; by age 16, this difference had almost tripled. Although these key results did not vary across girls and boys, we observed gender differences in the development of intelligence in early childhood. Overall, SES was shown to be associated with individual differences in intercepts as well as slopes of intelligence. However, this finding does not warrant causal interpretations of the relationship between SES and the development of intelligence.

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TEDS is supported by the UK Medical Research Council [G0901245; and previously G0500079], with additional support from the US National Institutes of Health [HD044454; HD059215]. RP is supported by a Medical Research Council Research Professorship award [G19/2] and a European Research Council Advanced Investigator award [295366].


Intelligence; IQ; Socioeconomic status; Latent growth; Gender

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January 2015Published
8 November 2014Published Online
7 October 2014Accepted

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Date Deposited:

21 Jan 2015 12:29

Last Modified:

15 Mar 2021 10:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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