May 03

“Gifted” Child: What Happens Later?

In the current drama Gifted, the best interests of Mary, a child prodigy (also played exceptionally, I might add, by McKenna Grace), are being considered.

One of the main questions Gifted raises regards the long-term fate of the child: what kind of adult might Mary eventually become? We learn early on, for example, that Mary’s own brilliant mother killed herself. Is it common that giftedness can interfere this extremely with the ability to mature healthily?

Watch the trailer, then read some related thoughts:

As JR Thorpe recently outlined in Bustle, there are several ways giftedness does “change the game a bit.” Click on the link for details.

  • You May Be More Likely To Have Specific Emotional Problems—States expert Dr. Joan Freeman, possibly because of false stereotypes being projected onto you, possibly because of traits such as hypersensitivity and perfectionism not managed adequately.
  • You May Be More Likely To Choose Your Path According To Social Pressures—One study showed kids “weren’t necessarily allowed to go off and figure out paths on their own.”
  • You May Have More Difficulty Picking Between Passions—“Multipotentiality” affects many of this population.
  • You May Have A Hard Time Turning Giftedness Into Adult Achievement—One of the common deterrents involves the labelling that can lead to unrealistic expectations placed on you.

You could be among the gifted and not even realize it. Therapist Lynne Azpeitia, MFT, offers a criteria checklist, adapted from material written by Annemarie Roeper (1919-2012). It includes traits not only in the intellectual realm but also along the emotional, social, moral, creative, and personality spectra.

Although nearly two decades old, Marylou Kelly Streznewski‘s Gifted Grownups: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential is also a resource of interest. From Publishers Weekly:

According to Streznewski, gifted people constitute 3% to 5% of the population, are inquisitive and energetic, have rapid mental processes and a restless drive to enlarge their world…Streznewski, who teaches gifted high school students, rather artificially classifies the gifted into three types: ‘strivers,’ high-scoring teacher-pleasers who go on to high achievements; ‘superstars,’ sociable scholar-athletes or popular personalities on a trajectory to fame and fortune; and ‘independents,’ inner-directed, creative intellectuals who challenge authority. Her contention that gifted adults ignore the conventional life stages and follow their own special rhythms, changing jobs and careers in spite of the cost to themselves and loved ones, remains speculative…

Another book from that era is Mary-Elaine Jacobsen‘s Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius. A few quotes:

Gifted people cannot escape a sense of calling, a mandate to put their abilities to the test of time and constructive purpose. This is the true legacy of giftedness, the sense of responsibility to leave something valuable behind.

To fully express the true self is at best a calculated risk.

The idiosyncrasies of giftedness are rarely seen as “different = interesting,” but instead are deemed “different = wrong.”

While the last of these statements has hopefully become less true over time, the middle sentiment often remains present. Gail Post, PhD (Gifted Challenges blog), on what’s often seen, particularly with females: “Gifted girls…may hide their abilities, ‘dumb themselves down’ and avoid traditionally masculine fields of study to remain popular.”

Back to the movie. Gifted…:

  • is “(s)chmaltzy as all get out” (
  • may not be critic Richard Roeper‘s candidate for this year’s Best Picture “but it just might be my favorite”
  • manages to be “(a) good-hearted entertainment that manages its plot curveballs, and everything else, with a show of compassion” (

But will Mary turn out to be okay? Although the actual (fictional) outcome of the (improbable) adult-Mary sequel will remain unknown, my bet is that you’ll exit the movie with quite a hopeful outlook.