GIFTED CHILDREN

The 1 per cent of children with IQs above 135 or 140. Children with IQs above 170 or 180 are usually termed extremely gifted. At one time it was taken for granted that gifted children were bound to be frail, one-sided, and eccentric. As a result of extensive research, it is now recognized that, taken as a whole, they are more often above than below average in all major characteristics, though particularly outstanding in intellectual ability. In the early years of life these children show more curiosity, ask more questions, and explore more widely than other children. As they grow, they develop far larger and richer vocabularies, start reading even before entering school (often teaching themselves), and almost immediately acquire a voracious appetite for books of all kinds. In addition, they show superior ability to remember and profit from their experiences, accept more responsibility, and make more mature moral judgments than the average child. These characteristics are generally accompanied by excellent health, superior physical development, and good character, as well as sound emotional adjustment and a wider than average range of interests.This is not to say that gifted children have no problems. Although they usually do superior work in school, there are many exceptions. Some become bored, easygoing, or disenchanted with school—especially whenno attempt is made to put them in special classes or involve them in special projects. Others work far below their capacity because they are afraid they will not be popular if they are too far ahead of their classmates. A “sizable minority” have trouble with social relationships, and about 20 per cent have hidden emotional problems, according to a study conducted by Gallagher and Crowder (1957). It has also been found that many of these children have a surprisingly low opinion of themselves, apparently because they cannot live up to their own high standards.Understandably, the extremely gifted are especially subject to these difficulties. These are the children with towering IQs, whose achievements take on legendary proportions—for example, the second grade girl who read seven books at her own age level in a single afternoon so that she could finish Green Pastures before bedtime (Dunlap,1958) ; or the eight-year-old boy who had already studied geology and astronomy, had achieved a reading knowledge of Latin and Spanish, and could carry on a conversation in French, German and Italian (Hollingworth, 1942). Children of this kind are seldom antisocial or actively maladjusted, but they are frequently asocial and uninterested in their age mates or their activities. They tend to live in a different world from their peers and sometimes from their parents as well.Studies conducted by Terman and his associates (1925) have given us some remarkably definite answers to questions about both the background and the later development of gifted children. Starting in 1921, data were gathered on 1000children who had a mean age of ten and a mean IQ of 140. One interesting finding was that the great majority came from the higher socioeconomic levels (with professional or business parents), while only 7 per cent came from the lowest economic level—a fact that can probably be explained by both hereditary and environmental factors. The indications are that their superiority in interest patterns as well as emotional and social adjustment (as mentioned above) are due largely to the stimulating home surroundings. Recently, Lay- cock and Caylor (1964) found that similar groups of gifted children were above average in physical development, but not physically superior to their intellectually normal brothers and sisters. This suggests that their physical development is also in large part a reflection of a superior home environment.Do gifted children make good the “promise of youth,” or do they bum out as they grow older? Since their initial selection, Terman and his associates have made periodic follow-up studies to see how the 1000 gifted children developed. Reports published by Terman and Oden in 1947 and 1959 revealed that 85 per cent of the girls and 90 per cent of the boys attended college, and took three times their share of honors even though they averaged two years younger than their classmates. A few who did not achieve as well as might be expected were found to live under severe home tensions, or had deliberately neglected their studies in favor of other pursuits. Although they graduated during the depression, less than 1 per cent were unemployed in 1936, and some had already achieved national reputations. About 150 out of the 750 who were contacted were judged very successful by such criteria as holding responsible managerial positions and recognition by Who’s Who and American Men of Science. Even though the others had received less public recognition, most of them were rated more successful than people of average intelligence. Studies made of the relatively few who had become school dropouts, criminals, or vocational misfits indicated that personality factors rather than intellectual ability made the difference. These individuals, unlike the great majority, were poorly adjusted emotionally and poorly motivated to achieve success. See TERMAN, PRODIGY, GENIUS.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "GIFTED CHILDREN," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/gifted-children/ (accessed April 10, 2020).
SHARE