diversity in all its aspects, whether genetic or lingual, can be beneficial
Numerous scientific studies have suggested that those born with a diverse range of parental genes and are brought up in a multilingual environment can actually be smarter than those born without.
In 2015, a University of Edinburgh study found that children born to genetically diverse parents, particularly mixed race couples, are more likely to grow up to be smarter than those whose parents have similar genes.
Research scientists at the University of Edinburgh analysed the genetic information of over 100 surveys done throughout the globe, using over 350,000 people’s DNA.
They found that not only were the children of genetically diverse parents intelligent, but they were also taller.
DNA samples were analysed to find instances of when people inherited identical genes from both their parents, which showed their ancestors were related.
When this happens less in a person’s genes, it shows they have greater genetic diversity in their heritage, with the two sides of their family being unlikely to be related.
However, though researchers originally thought that close genetic ties would mean a person had a greater risk of complicated diseases, this turned out not to be true.
The only links scientists found were between genetic diversity, height, and thinking quickly.
According to the research, nearly one in ten couples are ethnically mixed worldwide, and in the UK, there are 2.3 million people living as part of an interracial relationship.
While more traditional South Asians are less inclined to be in support of interracial marriages, it now seems that such marriages are more preferable for those parents looking to bring up high-performing children.
Another study carried out by the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow found that children who grew up speaking more than one language were also more intelligent than those who knew only one language.
The study examined 121 bilingual children alongside monolingual children. The bilingual children were found to have a wider vocabulary, and were able to understand words better.
The Scotland based researchers found that such children performed better at school, as the cognitive processes required to pick up two languages helped to develop their language abilities, mathematical and problem-solving abilities and their creative thinking at an increased rate.
This means that those British Asian children learning to speak English and Urdu, Punjabi or Hindi in the home were overall better performers.
The University of Washington in Seattle also found that babies at only 11 months can even begin to pick up developed language skills before they start talking.
Researcher Patricia Kuhl says: “Monolingual babies show a narrowing in their perception of sounds at about 11 months of age.
“They no longer discriminate foreign-language sounds they successfully discriminated at 6 months of age.
“But babies raised listening to two languages seem to stay ‘open’ to the sounds of novel languages longer than their monolingual peers, which is a good and highly adaptive thing for their brains to do.”
But while children are known to pick up more than one language much quicker while they are young, the Strathclyde research also indicates that higher intelligence is not limited to young age either. They found that even adults who learned a new language were also able to successfully boost their cognitive skills.
While traditionally, first generations of British Asian children were naturally brought up with two languages in the household, many newer generations are no longer exposed to multilingual environments.
Some new British Asian parents are sticking to simply English as their mother tongue, and as a result children are less comfortable in understanding the languages of their grandparents who emigrated to England.
What these various studies show is that diversity in all its aspects, whether genetic or lingual, can be beneficial to an individual’s learning and development.
Dr Jim Wilson, from the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, adds: “This study highlights the power of large-scale genetic analyses to uncover fundamental information about our evolutionary history.”
He emphasises that whilst science has already investigated the dangers of inter-breeding, not enough research has been done on the benefits of diversity.
He said: “Our research answers fundamental questions first posed by Darwin as to the benefits of genetic diversity.”
It is hoped that more research into genetic diversity will hone in on which aspects of the genome will benefit from diversity, which could mean important steps for genetics in medicine.