Prodigy psychologist: The gifted child’s curse

When children are labelled as "gifted" we like to think the world will be their oyster when they grow up. Be very careful, warns British psychologist Joan Freeman. As she explains to Alison George, her 35 years of studying children with extraordinary abilities has revealed that the label has as many negatives as positives

According the Joan Freeman there are negatives as well as positives

According the Joan Freeman there are negatives as well as positives

by Alison George 

You have followed one group of gifted children for the past 35 years. Did they all go on to lead brilliantly successful adult lives?

No. Only a few rose to fame and fortune, and no matter how glittering their early prospects, they had to work extremely hard most of their lives to get there. There is a big difference between a gifted child and a gifted adult. A child is seen as gifted because they are ahead of their age peers, especially at school, while a "gifted" adult has to be seen to make a difference to the world.

How did you define a "gifted" child?

That’s the most difficult question. A gifted child is someone who is distinctly better at something than other children of the same age. Each one is something of a prodigy. While some can do anything brilliantly, whether it is sport, music or philosophy, others focus on a single area. The criteria for giftedness vary, not only with the culture, but with age. The people featured in my latest book, Gifted Lives, which investigates what happens when gifted children grow up, all had IQs above 160.

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