As your pregnancy comes to an end, chances are giving birth is on your mind.
You might be hoping for a smaller baby in hopes labour will be easier (despite the lack of evidence size makes much difference in labour’s length, intensity or pain).
Many mothers worry about having a big baby (also known as macrosomia), especially when it comes to head circumference, but new research shows that babies with larger heads are more likely to succeed.
Perhaps having a big baby could be worth any labour worries?
UK Biobank’s research found a strong link between higher intelligence with large head circumferences and brain volume.
In fact, some experts believe the research to be so accurate it could even predict a baby’s future university acceptance!
How Could Research Determine A Child’s Future Based On Head Size?
UK Biobank is following 500,000 Britons for a long term study designed to discover links between their genes, their mental and physical health, and their path through life.
Thus far, they’ve found a strong link between a baby’s head size at birth and their future success. Having a larger head circumference and brain volume has been associated with higher intelligence.
Participants were given cognitive tests and the results were compared with several areas to find any associations between the cognitive test scores and involved genes, head circumference and brain volume.
Researchers hope to find more links between DNA and brain development and function. Though neuroscientists are aware what a complex process this is given the vast number of genes involved.
What Do These Results Mean?
It’s important to understand that brain development, cognitive abilities and DNA are quite complex. An association between a larger head and intelligence doesn’t mean having a smaller head equals poor cognitive function, nor does it mean excellent cognitive function is automatic with a larger head volume.
What it means is that when we take a large group of people, those with larger heads at birth were more likely to have higher intelligence when compared to those with smaller head circumference.
Given the many complexities between genetics and development, it’s hard to be exactly sure why. One could speculate that the same genes which impact brain size also impact cognitive development. Researchers hope to continue to look at the varying associations to learn more.
Does This Mean If My Child’s Head Is Smaller They Will Struggle To Succeed?
In short, no. There are many, many variables which impact a child’s cognitive development and success in life. Certainly it seems the nature versus nurture debate is a long term one, but we know both areas have a big role in childhood development.
It seems that genes do impact how we grow and develop, but our environment (those around us, our food intake, our stimulation, etc) also has a large impact in development. Love and affection is especially significant in shaping a baby’s brain and who they become – find out more in the brilliant book, Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt.
It’s important not to worry much about these studies. These things are great at the research and professional levels, but it doesn’t necessarily impact how parents should speculate about their child’s future. Learning more about brain development is important for professionals to learn more about different disorders and diseases, to learn more about treatment of any complications in development, and to perhaps eventually impact the early childhood development field.
Should I Take Anything Away From This Information?
As a parent, you really don’t need to worry much about the results of studies like this at this level. What you can take away from this is that there are many variables which impact brain development. Perhaps you feel like you’re doing everything “right” but your child is still struggling with certain areas. Some might find comfort in the fact that there are genetic components in development and not just parental or environmental aspects.
It’s sort of like the next level after wondering why your infant cries more than your friend’s. Are you doing something wrong? Not necessarily, as we know some babies are simply harder than others in terms of caring for them. It’s also similar to wondering what impact you’re having on your child’s temperament.
What we do and how we parent does impact our child’s behaviour, development and temperament, but genes also play a big role.
As a parent, it’s important to focus on good parental child attachment, to have understanding of normal childhood development and milestones, and to be open to seeking professional help if we have any concerns about our child’s development.
But if you do take something away from all this, perhaps it’s not to worry about a larger head, when it comes to thinking about giving birth.