March 5, 2009

Being labeled gifted holds stigma

An Israeli researcher said gifted children have many talents, but are more likely to limit the use of these talents.

Instead of selecting from the many options open to them, researcher Dr. Inbal Shani of the University of Haifa said gifted children tended to limit themselves to applied or prestigious subjects.

The researchers surveyed 800 gifted and non-gifted high-school students and examined the differences in self-concept and other psychological variables. The results showed that while gifted youths have higher self-esteem in their educational achievements, they have lower self-esteem in social and physical aspects.

Society identifies the gifted child with high intelligence and is often hasty to identify this intelligence with specific subjects, especially exact or prestigious sciences, Shani said in a statement. The maturing children are quick to adopt this identity, renouncing the process of building self-identity.

Since the maturing gifted students knew from a very young age what their life's course would be -- usually in the applied sciences -- most of them demonstrated neither deliberation nor interest in other fields. They usually studied applied sciences, but when they were asked why they had made these choices, they were not able to explain.

Shani added that gifted youths frequently report social difficulties and the feeling that other children keep distant from them because of the gifted label.