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How Stereotypes Affect Gifted Children

gtchat 09182015 Stereotypes


Most parents of gifted children have a story to tell ‘about the time they mentioned one of their child’s achievements’ in a group of parents and it’s usually not a happy one. It doesn’t take long for these parents to stop sharing anything about their kids. They’ll be the first to tell you that stereotypes do indeed affect gifted children. This week at #gtchat, we decided to dive deeper into the topic of stereotypes.

In a poignant response to the blog post, “I hate hearing about your gifted child”, Catharine Alvarez PhD, explains why envy can play a role in stereotyping gifted children. Envy is a powerful emotion that is often directed toward outliers – those who possess traits not shared by everyone else.

Those who envy the parent of the gifted child tend to immediately attribute their negative feelings (actually generated by the envy) to some social transgression on the part of the envied parent. In this case, the charge is “bragging”. This makes sense, because any discussion of the gifted child’s abilities makes their envy salient, and they naturally want to avoid that emotional discomfort. Parents are not only defending their own self-concepts as good parents and intelligent people, but even more vitally, they are defending their own good opinion of their offspring. ~ Alvarez

As the gifted child gets older and their abilities become more obvious to others, the more negative responses they may encounter; often reacting by hiding their abilities to avoid unpleasant situations. Dr. Marianne Kuzujanakis pointed out, “Envy involves what cannot be easily obtained by all people. Stereotypes imply GT have unearned benefits.”

Another point raised by teacher and blogger, Celi Trépanier, concerned how the perception of gifted programs in schools can also affect stereotypes about gifted children and the issue of fairness. How these programs are implemented can perpetuate negative stereotyping. Entrance into a gifted program is seen as a ‘prize’ for good grades and behavior. Equality replaces equity in the minds of many. This raises the need for better and more extensive identification of gifted children.

Stereotyping is far too often an issue with teachers and how they respond to children identified as gifted. Research found here (pdf), here (pdf) and here (pdf) shows that preconceived and often incorrect information can influence a teacher’s approach to gifted children. Andrea of reminded us, “Often times teachers provide recommendations for GT programs, it’s important that stereotypes don’t bias the selection.”This implies an urgent need for introduction of gifted education courses at the undergraduate level.

The number one stereotype mentioned during the chat was: gifted equals achievement.  This stereotype can be exacerbated by asynchronous development when teachers believe that a child’s emotional level should equal their intellectual level. Stereotypes extend to race, gender, ethnicity, physical appearance, and disabilities coupled with giftedness; to name a few.

Do stereotypes affect intellectual identity and performance? Many times gifted kids moderate their behavior and performance to conform to social standards. As Carla Walk in Texas told us, “Beware: The gifted underachiever can surface when stereotypes turn into peer pressure.” Dr. Marianne Kuzujanakis said, “YES! The GT child can doubt GT status when work becomes challenging or under-perform if [it appears that it’s] uncool to be smart. A twice-exceptional child may sadly never believe they are gifted. ” Adolescent gifted girls, in particular, choose to ‘dumb down’ in order to fit into social circles. Nikki Linn commented, “The gifted perfectionist can face depression,  anxiety, etc. when adults think gifted equal highest achievers.” Dr. Jennifer Marten added, “Stereotypes affect all students but when you combine with impostor syndrome, perfectionist tendencies, and over-excitabilities; it’s exacerbated.”

“There is evidence to show that the gifted are influenced by their peers’, parents’ and teachers’ feelings about their abilities. If they are seen as mental freaks, unhealthy personalities, or eccentric simply because they are brainy or creative, many of them will avoid the stigma through conformity. Some would rather underachieve and be popular than achieve honor status and receive ostracism.” ~ Tannenbaum

Stereotypes can also have an effect on the availability of services for gifted children in schools as well. They can influence the perception of administrators regarding existing or proposed gifted programs. Twice-exceptional students fare the worst when schools can’t see past what they feel is a disability; ignore abilities. Cindy Kruse, educational consultant in Pennsylvania, suggested that administrators “need to practice “WIN” in education..everyone gets “What I Need”. A transcript of the chat can be found at Storify.


Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented and sponsored by is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7E/6C/5M/4P in the U.S., Midnight in the UK and Saturdays 11 AM NZST/9 AM AEST 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:


Envy & Giftedness: Are We Underestimating the Effects of Envy?

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

I hate hearing about your gifted child

Teachers’ Perceptions of the Socio-emotional Development of Intellectually Gifted Primary Aged Students (pdf p. 11)

AUS: Teachers’ Attitudes towards the Gifted: Importance of PD & School Culture (pdf)

Student and Teacher Attitudes toward Giftedness in 2 Laboratory School Environments (pdf)

What Predicts Teachers’ Attitudes Toward the Gifted? (pdf)

Teachers’ Negative Affect toward Academically Gifted Students (pdf)

A Threat in the Air How Stereotypes Shape Intellectual Identity and Performance (pdf)

The Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Kids (PPT) (pdf)

Coping with the Stigma of Giftedness (pdf)

Social Adjustment and Peer Pressures for Gifted Children

When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers (Free Spirit Publishing)

Harrison Bergeron (pdf) by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Gifted Resources Film Discussion Series from Jo Freitag

GHF Blog Hop: Gifted in Reel Life

Gifted Children: About that Stereotype


Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

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