Creative Child

What’s Behind Your Child’s Motivation? It May Be Genetics

by Deborah Song


The role of genes behind laziness

A couple of studies suggest that laziness, or the lack of motivation to move physically, may be attributed to genes. One study conducted through selective breeding of 10 generations of mice, revealed that active inbred rates were 10 times more likely to run than their lazier counterparts.

In another study detailed in the 2011 journal Proceedings of the National Academics of Sciences, scientists turned off genes that enable muscles to make energy from sugars in some mice. While normal mice could run for miles, those without the genes in their muscles could only run “to the hall and back.”

At the very least, these studies should open the doors for important discussions and the possible genetic explanation for laziness.

The role of genes behind the motivation to learn

A more compelling study was conducted in 2014 by the University of Ohio, which analyzed 13,000 sets of human twins between the ages of 9 and 16 from six different countries. The findings showed that motivational levels varied more between fraternal twins, who only shared roughly half the same inherited genes, than identical twins, who inherited all of the same genes.


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After studying students from Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and Russia, researchers consistently came to the conclusion that more than 40 to 50 percent of the differences in a child’s level of motivation to learn could be explained by their genetic inheritance, which turned out to be a much larger role in student’s performance in school than other factors like family and teachers.

That’s not to say the role of family and teachers aren’t critical to a child’s motivation. But what the findings do show is that the mechanisms for how to motivate a child are more complex than we once thought.

Knowledge is always power, even in this case. Perhaps even more so. Parents can find liberation in knowing that the full weight of responsibility to motivate a child does not fall completely on their shoulders. And instead of blaming ourselves, teachers or even our own kids for things that may not always be in their control, we can refocus our energy towards a strategy that takes into consideration the very make up of who they are.



Deborah Song is a Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based writer, who obtained her master's in journalism from New York University. She is the founder of, and is passionate about helping parents find better work-life balance and proper support through community.

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