For years, it's been a truism among psychologists and social scientists: Smarter kids grow up in families with fewer children -- specifically those with one or at most two kids.
Now, a new study shows, it appears the experts confused cause with effect. A long-term study of more than 11,400 American children and teen-agers has found that while parents with lower IQs tend to have more children, large families alone do not produce children with low IQs; other factors, such as parental IQ, are believed to be responsible.
So what's the genesis of the association of smaller families and higher intelligence, a concept enshrined in a 1975 magazine article by psychologist R. B. Zajonc entitled ''Dumber By the Dozen''?
A team of researchers writing in the current issue of the journal American Psychologist reports that this ''methodological illusion'' stems from a widely promulgated but scientifically specious theory: that the more children in a family, the skimpier the resources -- time, money, attention, food, love -- available to each child.
It may sound reasonable, but an analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, found that while duller parents make large families, large families do not make duller children.
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