You know that the people who raised you have played a huge part in shaping who you are, especially if you're unfortunate enough to be Chinese. What you may not realize is that this process began before you were born, and in some cases, before your parents even met each other. This is just another care package of horrors mailed directly to your brain from the scientific community.
If 80s movies have taught us anything, it's that being a high school sports star requires only beefcake, a cheerleader girlfriend and a complete lack of basic human empathy. In reality, it takes a lot of hard work, but you still need to have the right birthday.
Researchers from The University of Queensland analyzed the birthdays of Australian soccer players and discovered that the month in which you are born plays a huge role in your athletic success. They found that there were 33 percent more professional soccer players than expected born in the month of January and 25 percent fewer born in December.
When his birth date kept him out of the professional leagues, he went with the next best thing.
The Australian school year starts in January (because their seasons are upside-down), so kids born in that month are almost a full year older than the December-born kids who join a team in the same year of high school. Because kids grow like crazy, the ones who are just a little older tend to crush their slightly younger opposition. It's enough of an effect that, by the end of schooling, graduating sports stars are toned, athletic, January-born supersoldiers, while their December-born classmates are broken shells of human beings who turn to accounting or Internet comedy writing.
Someone has to keep Wild Turkey in business.
The bad luck doesn't end there for those born on the wrong side of summer. A recent Michigan State University study shows that the youngest kids in a class are 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their older peers. It's not due to brain injuries suffered by being held head-first in a toilet bowl by older jocks -- quite simply, the youngest kids are less mature than their older classmates, and some pediatricians make the mistake of diagnosing kids based on their grade at school rather than their age.
The effect is most noticeable in kindergarten. Kids born at the end of September, after the enrollment cutoff, wind up in classes with kids born at the beginning of September of the following year. So when playtime rolls around and Johnny picks up See Spot Run while Timmy just messes around with the hamburger phone, the teacher assumes that Johnny is a prodigy and that there's something wrong with Timmy's brain.
Teachers -- making the world a worse place one shattered dream at a time.
Knowing your mother's favorite candy is extremely useful coming up to Mother's Day. Unfortunately, if you happen to know that the answer is "licorice," we're sorry to inform you that you are utterly doomed. Your mother's favorite candy may have lowered your intelligence and could have even given you a behavioral disorder.
On the plus side, it tastes like death!
A study on a bunch of 8-year-olds in Finland, where licorice is basically one of the food groups, found that the children whose mothers had consumed more than 100 grams of pure licorice during pregnancy performed worse than their peers on a variety of cognitive functions, including vocabulary, memory and spatial awareness. They were also more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
But hey, at least they didn't have to eat any.
The culprit appears to be a component in the candy called glycyrrhizin, which, in addition to harboring a severe vowel deficiency, may impair the placenta and allow more stress hormones to pass from the mother to the fetus. This kind of makes the baby stressed by proxy, so the fetus starts producing a hormone called cortisol to deal with it.
This leads to the children having levels of cortisol up to one-third higher than their peers have. Cortisol increases your tolerance of stress, so it's beneficial if you want to be, say, a brain surgeon or a professional lion castrator. Unfortunately, too much of it is also linked to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and all sorts of brain problems. Finally, we have somebody else to blame for our failing education system: the Finns.
Next on Cracked: Why British people are responsible for our high teen suicide rate.
Anyone who has taken a long family road trip knows that our parents' stress is highly contagious, but you may not realize that it's also made you frail and stupid. Scientists have now discovered that stress during pregnancy is connected to allergies, autism, slow development and learning difficulties in infants.
WARNING: Contents under pressure. Do not agitate.
Your mom doesn't have to be an air traffic controller or in charge of de-escalating a nuclear standoff. It turns out that common relationship problems and financial issues somehow boost the level of antibodies associated with asthma and allergies in an unborn baby. These are the antibodies that overreact like fans at an ICP concert if you make contact with dust, pollen or dogs. If you have too many, you have to live in a plastic bubble in order to breathe.
This story gets much worse if the stress your mother dealt with was associated with home renovation. Like, lying awake at night agonizing over whether to paint the baby's room pink or blue. It turns out that chemicals released during stress form a horrible, horrible cocktail if they're combined with certain chemicals in glues, paints and plastics. For example, if you're a guy and your mother got too stressed-out while inhaling paint fumes, your balls may never drop. And that's just one of the many awful and emasculating conditions you may have to deal with.
"KICK THEM, YOU COWARD! KICK THEM UNTIL THEY FALL!
Rest assured, though, she only stressed because she loved you. And if she'd known all this back then, being stressed would have only made her more stressed. Depending on your perspective, scientific enlightenment has either doomed the next generation or made them way more likely to be born with a contact high.
When you're a kid, half of the appeal of adulthood is the freedom of deciding what you want to eat, without Mom's meddling. We here at Cracked enjoy an ice cream sandwich for breakfast every single morning. The bad news is, scientists have discovered that even if you live thousands of miles away from your mother, she's still controlling your diet from the past.
Also, she's still pissed that you didn't go to med school.
A mother's choice of comfort food during pregnancy has a profound impact on what her children spend the rest of their lives eating, or in some cases, stuffing their fat, greasy-jowled faces with. Scientists have discovered that the flavors in a pregnant mother's diet actually affect the structure of a fetus's brain.
To test their hypothesis, researchers plied some pregnant mothers with carrot juice, carrots long having been recognized as baby kryptonite. Astonishingly, the babies whose moms drank the carrot juice showed a preference for carrot-flavored cereal, rather than just smearing it all over themselves and throwing it onto the walls. It's kind of terrifying to think that those cheeseburgers you ate while pregnant may have doomed your child to a life of good old American obesity.
If only she'd chosen a healthier addiction. Like nicotine.
The implications go well beyond simply determining your dietary preferences. Researchers have found that alcohol exposure during fetal development may be linked directly to teenage binge drinking. Although the research to prove this connection has been performed only on rats, because trying to turn babies into alcoholics by getting their pregnant moms smashed is seen to have undesirable ethical ramifications, even in the name of science.