Those of you who are parents are likely to know first hand the pride of pinning your children’s drawings to the fridge. But there may be more to these drawings than meets the eye. According to a new study, they can indicate how intelligent a child will be as a teenager.

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Children who scored higher on a “Draw-a-Child” test also scored higher on intelligence tests at both 4 and 14 years old.
Image credit: King’s College London

The research team, led by Dr. Rosalind Arden of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London in the UK, recently published their findings in the journal Psychological Science.

For their study, Dr. Arden and colleagues assessed 7,752 pairs of identical and non-identical twins (15,504 children in total) who were a part of the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS).

When the children were 4 years old, their parents asked them to draw a picture of a child, in line with the “Draw-a-Child” test that was set up in the 1920s as a way of determining a child’s intelligence.

Each drawing was then scored on a scale of 0 to 12. Scores were dependent on the number of physical features – such as a head, eyes, nose, mouth, body and arms – a child included in their drawing. For example, if a child drew two legs, two arms, a body and head but drew no facial features, they would receive a score of 4.

The children were also required to complete intelligence tests at the age of 4 and again at the age of 14.

The researchers found that higher drawing scores at the age of 4 were associated with higher intelligence at the same age, which they say was expected.

But Dr. Arden says she was surprised to find that higher drawing scores at age 4 were also associated with higher intelligence scores a decade later, when the children were 14 years old.

Dr. Arden stresses, however, that parents should not worry if their child is a bad drawer, as the correlation between drawing ability and intelligence was moderate; it was 0.33 at 4 years and 0.20 at 14 years.

She adds:

Drawing ability does not determine intelligence. There are countless factors, both genetic and environmental, which affect intelligence in later life.”

The team also found that there may be a genetic link involved in a child’s drawing ability. At age 4, they found that drawings from identical twins – who share all the same genes – were more similar to each other than drawings from non-identical twins, who share around 50% of their genes but generally have a similar upbringing.

However, Dr. Arden is keen to point out that this does not mean there is a “drawing gene.”

“A child’s ability to draw stems from many other abilities, such as observing, holding a pencil, etc. We are a long way off understanding how genes influence all these different types of behavior,” she adds.

Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study published in the journal Child Development, which revealed that a child’s reading skills can be a predictor of intelligence as a young adult.