Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about giftedness in early childhood
Is giftedness hereditary?
The development of high ability is influenced both by characteristics of the child (including genetic predispositions and aptitudes) and by environmental factors. Giftedness is therefore always subject to genetic influences, although these influences are not exclusive. This is especially true for specific academic abilities, where high intelligence plays a significant role: Differences in intelligence are largely determined genetically (approx. 40 to 60%), although environmental factors also make an important contribution to explaining them.
The long-running controversy about whether genetic or environmental factors are more relevant for intelligence has made it clear that the extent of their respective influence varies over the life course. Typically, the younger children are, the greater the influence of environmental factors on their development. One reason for this is that some genetically predisposed abilities are only activated by environmental factors. This is why high-quality and stimulating educational programs are extremely important, even at an early age and especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
In this context, the interaction of genetic and environmental factors is not a passive process. As children grow older, and later also as adults, they actively contribute to shaping their own environments: For example, they choose friends who have similar interests or abilities, or they select recreational activities or school programs that allow them to pursue specific interests. In doing so, they are actively influencing their own (informal) learning opportunities.