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Gifted and Talented Children

Family Relationships

Because intellectual ability is in part genetically determined (Plomin 1997), children in a family where one child has been identified as intellectually gifted are likely, also, to be highly able (Gross 1993). This does not mean, however, that either the parents or the school will view all children in the family as academically gifted. Teachers, for example, tend to assume that their gifted students are the academically successful teacher pleasers (Betts and Neihart 1988). Additionally, if the "unidentified" sibling has a learning disability or is not motivated to achieve, his or her high abilities may go undetected.

When a child is identified as intellectually gifted, parents sometimes worry about how this will effect the self-esteem of his or her siblings. In making such a comparison, a range of factors needs to be taken into consideration, including birth order, the ages of the children and the gaps between them and the children's gender and levels of intellectual ability, as well as parental values, education, and relationships. Oldest or only children are more frequently identified as gifted, as are children of parents who encourage in their children a love of learning (Pfouts 1980; VanTassel-Baska 1983). However, research suggests that the self-esteem of siblings in a family where at least one child has been identified as gifted, is more dependent on existing family relationships and attitudes towards one another, than on the singling out of a child for special treatment at school or for admission to a gifted program (Cornell and Grossberg 1986). Families where members interact cooperatively, with a respect for each other's differences of personality, opinions, and values, are strongly facilitative of children's healthy self-esteem and acceptance of differences in ability.

Healthy family relationships occur when members are assured that their individual roles are accepted and valued by the others in the family. Sibling rivalry may arise when children compare themselves with siblings, and feel less valued or accepted. If a child who has been identified as gifted receives special attention at the expense of the non-identified sibling, then the self-esteem of that sibling is likely to fall. Constant negative comparison with a sibling of perceived superior ability, together with a relative lack of recognition, may damage self-esteem. It is important to remember, however, that it is a result of the family's attitude towards the child who has not been identified as gifted, rather than the school's recognition of the one who has, which results in the sibling's decline in self-esteem (Grenier 1985).


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodGifted and Talented Children - Identification Of Gifted Children, Family Relationships, How Families Foster Talent Development, Educational Responses