Identity Development in Intellectually Gifted Students


The importance of identity development for intellectually gifted students has been known for decades; however, its relevance has been questioned as often as the notion of giftedness itself. Links provided during the chat and additional resources subsequently added by the moderator below cover a 30+ year period through a recent study published this month.

What exactly is identity development and why is it important for gifted individuals? According to Psychologist Andrew Mahoney, “Identity formation is the process of integrating and shaping discrete pieces of self into a unique being.” Briefly stated, it is you defining who you are; not someone else.

In order to define oneself with regards to giftedness, a thorough understanding of being gifted itself is needed. In there lies the first challenge – the many definitions of ‘gifted’. #gtchat Advisor, Lisa Van Gemert, shared her recent post on the gifted label which was highly relevant to our conversation.

Gifted children do not always understand what it means to be gifted and this leads to unnecessary confusion. At times they may be told how smart they are and this seems like a good thing. Then, they may be teased and bullied; being called derogatory names such as “nerd” or “geek” which lead to feelings of being different and resentment by age-peers. Adults need to communicate openly and honestly about giftedness; especially that it’s not about being better than others.

It has been well documented that many gifted children form protective masks to hide their giftedness and to ‘fit in’ with age-peers. A gifted child’s awareness of others’ opinion of them can shape their behavior and response to perceived expectations. Acceptance and belonging are real human desires; gifted children may form masks when these needs aren’t met. As #gtchat Advisor and GT Coordinator in Texas Nicole Shannon stated, “They are afraid of being ridiculed for being who they are at their core.”

Asynchronous development in gifted children can also hinder identity development. It supposes being many ages at once and can make for socially awkward situations. Maturity levels can be significantly different from age-peers and misunderstandings may ensue. TED-Ed Innovative Educator in Virginia, Dani Bostick, related,  “When motor skills lag, some kids don’t feel smart. If they struggle with speech or writing, their ideas are trapped inside at times.”


Are there risks involved if a gifted child doesn’t develop a gifted identity? When gifted children don’t develop a gifted identity, they can be at risk for impostor syndrome; academic failure. Not understanding who they are; feeling different – may lead to depression and social anxiety.

Parents and teachers can help gifted children develop their identity. They need to have a strong understanding or what giftedness is and is not. Gifted children need guidance about individual needs related to their giftedness from parents and ‘trained’ school counselors.  A transcript of this chat can be found at Storify.

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented  is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Tuesdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Wednesdays at 13.00 NZST/11.00 AEST/1.00 UK  to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

Head Shot 2014-07-14  About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered        by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime  advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:


The Gifted Identity Formation Model

Can You Hear the Flowers Sing? Issues for Gifted Adults

Counseling Issues with Recognized and Unrecognized Gifted Adults

What We Have Learned About Gifted Children

Recognizing Giftedness: Defining High Ability in Young Children (pdf)

Discovering the Gifted Ex-Child (Tolan)

Editing Away My Value

Center for Identity Potential

Psychological Perspectives on Gifted Education – Selected Problems (pdf)

Ostracism among Gifted Adolescents: A Preliminary Study in Turkey (pdf)

The “Me” Behind the Mask: Intellectually Gifted Students and the Search for Identity

An Argument for Proactive Attention to Affective Concerns of Adolescents (pdf)

Giftedness: The View from Within

Coping Through Awareness: A Transformational Tool for Coping with Being Highly Gifted

Gifted Identity (website)

How Can You Help Your Gifted Child – Super Mommy, Not (video 2:57)

In Search of The Gifted Identity (pdf)

8 Reasons You Should Label Kids as Gifted

The Mad Genius Stereotype: Still Alive and Well

Intelligence, Personality, and Interests: Evidence for Overlapping Traits (pdf)

Is Giftedness A Matter Of Justice? Explaining Implicit Attitudes of Student Teachers Towards Giftedness Using A Social Justice Framework

The Impact of Giftedness on Psychological Well-Being

Nerds and Geeks: Society’s Evolving Stereotypes of Our Students With Gifts & Talents (pdf)

Editorial: The Public and Professional Perception of the Social and Emotional Status of Gifted Children (1990 pdf)

The Gifted Kids’ Survival Guide: For Ages 10 & Under (Amazon)

Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Feelings (Amazon)

The Pursuit of Excellence or the Search for Intimacy? The Forced-Choice Dilemma of Gifted Youth

Searching for Meaning: Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment, and Hope (Amazon)

When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers: How to Meet Their Social and Emotional Needs (Amazon)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay   CC0 Public Domain 

Cyril Joad Photo courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, London  CC License

Exceptionally Gifted Children by Miraca U. M. Gross

Graphics courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

Posted on October 17, 2016, in gifted and talented. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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