Home' Teacher : April 2011 Contents CURRICULUM & ASSESSMENT 23
A student is generally considered to be gifted
if they learn at a fast pace; master advanced
concepts and solve complex problems with
ease; and produce creative thoughts beyond
their years. Having these traits -- the gift of
being gifted -- is usually considered to be a
blessing -- but is it?
Dr Danuta Chessor, from the School of
Psychology at the University of Western
Sydney has conducted research on gifted
and talented students with Natasha Wolf,
a Masters of Educational Psychology stu-
dent. Chessor says a significant downside
of being gifted is that children often find
it difficult to relate to their peers, and can
become the victim of harmful peer victimi-
sation or bullying.
'Gifted children can take in and process
larger amounts of stimuli from their envi-
ronment,' explains Chessor. 'As a result,
they can appear more restless than children
of average intelligence; more sensitive to the
slights of others; and more likely to over-
react to seemingly small events.
'By late primary school, children have
formed hierarchical social structures in
which some individuals are more popular
than others and aggression is often used
by individuals to establish their position.
Unfortunately, the substantial differences
between gifted students and their peers can
often make them the target of hostility.'
Chessor says maintaining a status of
'giftedness' depends on three distinct fac-
tors -- having a high intellectual capacity,
well-developed affective traits and exposure
to a supportive environment -- and being
victimised at school can have a detrimental
impact on these factors.
'Being the victim of bullying can cause
high levels of anxiety, diminished self-
esteem and self- concept, and reduced moti-
vation,' she says. 'It's generally accepted
that this would adversely affect the aca-
demic outcomes of high-ability students;
however, there has been very little research
to ascertain exactly what these effects
To address this gap in the research lit-
erature, Chessor and Wolf embarked on a
study to assess whether peer victimisation
could be associated with diminished levels
of gifted traits.
'I was interested in finding out, where
gifted individuals are not exposed to a sup-
portive environment, whether they under-
achieve or experience diminished psycho-
logical wellbeing,' Chessor says.
'Can acts of bullying result in gifted
individuals having lower than average
self- concepts or lower motivations? Can
a history of peer victimisation lead gifted
individuals to self-sabotage or deny their
As part of the study, 80 high school stu-
dents aged 12 to 17, who participated in
school-based gifted and talented programs
and achieved within the top 90 per cent
on standardised tests, were provided with
short questionnaires to assess the degree of
bullying and victimisation they had expe-
The results indicate that 37 of the gifted
students had experienced peer victimisa-
tion. Those students who had been bullied
had diminished levels of self-concept and
'The present results found that there was
a significant difference between the victim-
ised and non-victimised group's responses,'
Chessor says. 'For example, gifted students
who had experienced peer victimisation
were more likely to have negative self-
concepts than those who have not been vic-
timised. From this, it can be concluded that
the gifted students' experiences of victimisa-
tion are associated with the development of
The results of the study also illustrate
that, in addition to the self-concepts of the
gifted students, there are significant differ-
ences in the social coping strategies that are
employed by victimised and non-victimised
'Social coping is typically understood as
the thoughts, feelings or actions that indi-
viduals use to manage or reduce stress,' says
'The study found that gifted students
who experience peer victimisation are
more likely to adopt negative motivational
techniques to improve their social situation.
These techniques include self-sabotaging
and denying or hiding their giftedness.'
Chessor says the results of the study sup-
port the common belief that peer victimi-
sation could be associated with diminished
levels of affective characteristics in gifted
individuals, but there's an aspect of the
study in which the results are a little more
'There's a widespread belief that gifted
individuals are more likely to experience
clinically significant levels of peer victimi-
sation,' says Chessor. 'As before mentioned,
however, the results of the study indicate
that 37 of the gifted students -- that's only
46 per cent of the participants -- had expe-
rienced peer victimisation.
'Perhaps the present results indicate
that gifted individuals do not experience
victimisation to the clinically significant
degree that has previously been identified
in the literature on giftedness. Or perhaps
the peer victimisation was less prevalent
than expected, because all of the partici-
pants in the present study were members
of gifted and talented classes, and have
therefore not experienced the feelings of
isolation that other gifted students have
been found to be faced with. Either way,
the research is useful for educators and
parents alike when considering the needs
of gifted children.'
Danielle Roddick is a senior media officer
in the Office of Public Affairs at the
University of Weste rn Sydney.
THE GIFT OF BEING GIFTED IS USUALLY CONSIDERED TO BE A BLESSING, BUT IS IT?
DANIELLE RODDICK HAS SOME ANSWERS.
Links Archive March 2011 May 2011 Navigation Previous Page Next Page