Now there’s one more reason to save your child’s first sketches. Researchers at King’s College London have found that a 4-year-old’s ability to produce an accurate drawing of a person predicts the child’s intelligence at age 14.
For the study, 15,504 4-year-olds (7,752 pairs of twins, both identical and fraternal) were each asked to make a figure drawing of a child in what’s called the Draw-a-Child test. The drawings were scored on a scale of 0-12 for accuracy. (For instance, points were given for two eyes and deducted for a third or fourth eye.) The children were given intelligence tests, and then tested again ten years later. Higher Draw-a-Child scores correlated with higher intelligence scores for the 4-year-olds and 14-year-olds.
“The Draw-a-Child test was devised in the 1920s to assess children’s intelligence, so the fact that the test correlated with intelligence at age 4 was expected,” Rosalind Arden, the paper’s lead author, said in a release. “What surprised us was that it correlated with intelligence a decade later.”
The study isn’t bad news for parents whose children’s portraits look like electrical storms or smudgy spiders, Arden says. “The correlation is moderate, so our findings are interesting, but it does not mean that parents should worry if their child draws badly.”
“Drawing ability does not determine intelligence, there are countless factors, both genetic and environmental, which affect intelligence in later life.”
The researchers also looked at whether a child’s drawing ability was inherited. They did this by separating out the drawings of identical twins and non-identical twins, and comparing them with each other.
Identical twins share all their genes with each other, while non-identical twins share only 50% of their genes.
However, both usually share the same family background and upbringing.
As the drawings from identical twins were more similar to one another than those from non-identical twin pairs, the researchers concluded that drawing ability had a genetic link.