Emilie Rune Hegelund defends her PhD thesis at the Department of Psychology

Emilie Rune Hegelund


'Intelligence, family background, and educational and occupational careers: five Danish cohort studies'.

Time and place

Friday 14 August at 14:00.

The Library of Faculty of Social Sciences, Audit 1, Gothersgade 140, 1123 Copenhagen K.

Please notice that the maximum number of people allowed in the auditorium is 59, and that the defence will start precisely at the announced time.

Assessment committee

  • Associate professor Gitta Wörtwein, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Denmark (chair)

  • Professor Matthew McGue, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, USA (will participate online)

  • Lecturer Stuart Ritchie, Social Genetic and Development Psychiatry Centre, King’s College London, UK (will participate online)


The present PhD project investigated the reciprocal associations between intelligence and the educational and occupational careers of young people, as well as how family background influenced these associations. The project showed that intelligence test scores strongly predicted a wide range of indicators of unsuccessful educational and occupational careers, but family social background modified some of the observed associations. Furthermore, familial factors seemed to explain parts of the associations between intelligence and educational and occupational careers though most of the familial factors' influences could be sufficiently taken into account by controlling well-known and measurable confounders. Moreover, the project showed that education had a positive influence on intelligence and that the marginal cognitive benefits of education persisted until 17 years of education and were larger among individuals with low intelligence in childhood. School performance also seemed to have a positive influence on the mean intelligence level and to moderate the shared environmental influences unique to intelligence so that variance was greater among those with poor school performance. Overall, this project's findings underline the importance of taking into account the complex interplay between intelligence and family social background when dealing with young people with unsuccessful educational and occupational careers. Due to the reciprocal associations, focusing on helping the individuals most at risk to improve their educational careers may not only be beneficial to these individuals' intelligence but also to their further educational and occupational careers and hence to society as a whole.

A copy of the PhD thesis will be available at the Faculty of Social Sciences' library prior to the defence.