The Parents Study tests whether psychological traits in parents predict developmental outcomes in their children. The outcomes of interest include areas of talent such as exceptional ability in mathematics, music, and art, as well as neurodevelopmental differences and disabilities, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and intellectual disability.
To test this question, we are using a “big data” approach that aims to have thousands of parents around the world complete an online self-report survey with questions about themselves and their children.
In parents, we are especially interested in psychological traits called “empathising” (the ability to recognize what others are thinking or feeling and respond with an appropriate emotion) and “systemising” (the drive to analyse the rules of a system, i.e., understanding how things work).
An individual’s scores on these two traits can be used to determine their “brain type”, which refers to a cognitive style that tends to focus more on empathy (Type E), more on systems (Type S), or one that is balanced equally between these (Type B).
These brain types are a validated measure that has been used in numerous scientific publications. Type E is more common in females and Type S is more common in males. Type S is also more common in those who work in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and is also far more common in autistic than in non-autistic people.
This study will help us find out if parents with a certain brain type are more likely to have children with certain talents or developmental outcomes.
The Parents Study survey will be launching soon.
Questions can be sent to ParentsStudy@medschl.cam.ac.uk
The study launches in the spring of 2023 and will run for one year.
The findings may help us predict which families could benefit from support to better meet their children’s strengths and challenges as they grow up. The results may also enable better planning of services to support children’s individual needs.
We received feedback on the study from 27 people, including those who identified as autistic, the parents of autistic children, autistic parents of autistic children, and the children of autistic parents. Feedback was requested on the content of the online survey and the wording of the survey questions, as well as on all study materials including the participant information sheet, consent form, and materials used to advertise the study to parents. Changes were made as a result of the engagement process.
This study was funded by an anonymous donor to the Cambridge University Development Office (CUDAR)