A study has found that gifted children shape their personalities according to social stigma.
They know from a young age what they want to be when they grow up, but when asked why they made those choices they cannot explain.
"Society identifies the gifted child with high intelligence and is often hasty to identify this intelligence with specific subjects, especially exact or prestigious sciences," said Dr. Inbal Shani of the University of Haifa, who carried out this study under the supervision of Prof. Moshe Zeidner.
"The maturing children are quick to adopt this identity, renouncing the process of building self-identity," she added.
The researchers surveyed 800 gifted and non-gifted high-school students and examined the differences in self-concept and other psychological variables between the two groups and also observed the ways in which maturing gifted students form their identity.
They found that while gifted youths have higher self-esteem in their educational achievements, they have lower self-esteem in social and physical aspects.
Shani revealed that as soon as students are defined 'gifted', they are entered into special educational programs.
This process causes them to feel that they excel in the academic field and therefore they strive to meet the expectations set for them in the programs built specially for them. This is particularly prominent in those classes that participate in intensive daily programs fostering gifted children.
"Maturing gifted students know from a very young age what their life's course will be, usually in the applied sciences. Most of them demonstrate neither deliberation nor interest in other fields, and they speak of studying in academic or military-academic tracks, which is of much significance in the process of self-exploration.
"It is a paradox: It is the gifted, who are often multi-talented, who tend to limit the realization of those very talents into specific fields. Instead of selecting from many options open to them, they limit themselves to applied or prestigious subjects," she added.
These kids frequently report social difficulties and the feeling that other children keep distant from them because of the gifted label.
It is important to enable them, in the process of forming an identity, to relate to emotional and social characteristics, such as motivation, self-concept, and external pressures, and not only to those characteristics related to cognitive aptitude.