In one of the most extensive
studies on the subject, British psychologist Joan Freeman found that labeling children "gifted" may harm some kids' long-term growth. The study classified 210
children into three groups (those labeled "gifted", those with
"identical ability" but without a label, and "average" children) and
observed their maturation from 1974 through the present day. By her
measures, Freeman found that only three percent of the "gifteds"
fulfilled "early promise" and became conventionally successful. Young
prodigies cited in this group include young math geniuses who wound up
working at McDonalds and exceptional scholars who ended up dropping out
of prestigious universities.
Freeman, who discussed her findings in a new interview
for the opinion section of New Scientist, suggested that parents who insisted on calling their average-IQ kids "gifted" weren't doing them any favors:
reaction is to be nurturing, while the unhealthy is to do with parental
need for their child to be bright. If you label a child as gifted when
they are not, as some parents do, the child has the most terrible
burden. If you are incapable of fulfilling your parents' dreams, you
must fail over and over - you can't win. There was one boy whose mother
was convinced he was gifted. She went on and on about how school didn't
appreciate him. When I tested him, he had an average IQ. As a child he
was very depressed, but he escaped and now runs a bar in Spain and is
having a great time.
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
ehayden at nationaljournal dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.