Are Gifted Children More or Less Emotionally Intelligent?
By Yvette Vignando - 11th August 2010
Sorry, I can't answer the question posed in the title of this post. I'm fairly sure that the question can't really be answered at all. And the more research I read about this issue, the more convinced I am that it's important not to generalise and stereotype on the topic of giftedness and social skills. I do believe that often giftedness in children brings with it many social and emotional challenges but I do not believe that giftedness equals lower levels of emotional intelligence.
To emphasise the importance of teaching and parenting each child without stereotyped assumptions, I'm sharing some research with you.
We've all heard the terms "nerd" and "geek" and most of us know a child or two that is very smart but less socially at ease than their peers. I also know many kids with high levels of intelligence that fit in well in the playground and are well-liked by their peers. So, is it true that along with giftedness comes a high risk of social isolation and difficulty fitting in with friends of the same age? Is it true that social and emotional competencies are lower among gifted and talented children?
According to a piece of research I have just read called Emotional Intelligence and Gifted Children, maybe not. In summary, the research indicated this:
- The levels of Emotional Intelligence of gifted children in this study did not show any significant difference from the "normal" levels found in the population.
- The levels of Emotional Intelligence of gifted children in this study did not show any significant difference from the average-performing children used as a control group in this study.
- There were some significant gender differences on levels of interpersonal, intrapersonal and general Emotional Intelligence levels; overall, among gifted and non-gifted kids, the females and their parents reported themselves more highly.
- The gifted children who chose to remain in the normal curriculum stream (as opposed to those who chose the program for gifted children) scored slightly but significantly higher on their self-reported levels of adaptability.
Firstly - as I am often reminded - please take all research results with the proverbial grain of salt. Secondly - as I often remind others and myself - treat your own child as the unique young person that they are.
Having followed my first and second reminders, you may wish to view my video discussion about this piece of research and add your own views about the topic.
If you're not keen on listening to me chat about this on the video for 5 minutes then perhaps you could share your views on this question only...
Do Gifted Kids Need to Improve Their Social Skills?
Is it the reaction of parents, teachers and peers to the intellectually gifted child that is more of an issue than that child's innate level of emotional intelligence?
My response to this question is that many gifted kids, particularly the profoundly gifted, communicate and react to life in ways that are challenging, unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable for their peers, parents and teachers. But is this their problem? Yes and no.
With apologies for fence-sitting, I think the gifted child does need to learn, for example, that determinedly correcting every error made by a peer in a conversation is socially jarring. I think the gifted child that has a wealth of knowledge about their special subject of interest does need to learn that other children may not be as interested in, for example, the intricate inner workings of 1935 steam engines.
On the other hand, the "average" child also needs to appreciate and value diversity in their peers. Schools and parents teach children about racial, cultural and religious diversity and tolerance and about integration of children with intellectual disability but rarely talk about tolerance for different personality styles, varieties of intelligence or intellectual approaches. I'd like to see more teachers and parents talking openly about the value of having gifted children in a school and less of the 'tall-poppy' mentality that often accompanies our approach to "smart kids".
If, as I suspect, it's true that giftedness does not equal lower levels of emotional intelligence - let's focus more on celebrating the diversity in all children and improving our own parenting and teaching skills to better cater for the range of wonderful and precious children in our schools. I know I am learning more every day about this with my own children and still have far to go!