Friday, August 1, 2014

Gifted Friendships: You Are Not Alone!

Gifted friendships are hard to define, and often even harder to find. Gifted kids in a classroom full of kids who want to play with them and invite them to parties, may feel alone and crave this rare commodity.  Gifted adults may feel alone in spite of lots of acquaintances at work and in other activities. There are lots of people around us every day, yet we feel strange and isolated. What are we missing?

"When gifted children are asked what they most desire, the answer is often 'a friend'.   The children's experience of school is completely colored by the presence or absence of relationships with peers." (Silverman, 1993).

Miraca Gross has researched gifted friendships, not only in children, but over the lives of young and now middle-aged adults through her longitudinal studies.  And I am lucky to count Miraca among my acquaintances, one who I would very much love to get to know better, who could easily become a friend... if only she didn't live on the other side of the world.

"This difficulty of the gifted child in forming friendships is largely a result of the infrequency of persons who are like-minded.  The more intelligent a person is, regardless of age, the less often can he find a truly congenial companion.  The average child finds playmates in plenty who can think and act on a level congenial to him, because there are so many average children."  (Hollingworth, 1936)

But what makes the gifted child less able to find friendship among all the other students in her age/grade classroom?  Is the student somehow biased towards kids identified as gifted?  No. Are the student's parents influencing her to befriend only the gifted kids?  Not at all.  Miraca's research shows...

Gifted children were beginning to look for friends with whom they could develop close and trusting friendships, at ages when their age-peers of average ability were looking for play partners.  (Gross, SENG article)
Gifted kids feel differently, and seek friendships among those who feel similarly!

Gross's and other research shows other factors influence friendships.  Gender plays a role: boys are, at some point, 2 or more years behind girls in their concepts of friendship, which accounts for the elementary years cliquishness of girls not being mimicked in boys until early middle school.  Age plays a role.  Levels of giftedness are also key to finding gifted friendships.

The years between four and nine are probably the most likely to be beset with problems. (Hollingworth, 1936)

The question is, what can we do to help our gifted children find friendships?

Ability grouping and grade advancement can be of invaluable assistance in the early years of school to young gifted children whose accelerated conceptions of firendship are urging htem to see the sure shelter of a relationsihp of trust, fidelity and authenticity, at ages when tehir age-peers are seeking playmates or casual conversation.  In the case of exceptionally and profoundly gifted child, it is difficult to justify, either educationally or socially, the inclusion of these children in classes comprised of age-peers whose conceptions of firendship are so radically different than theirs. (Gross, SENG article)

The most important thing we can do for our kids is to help them find this "community" they seek, and let them know and experience that they are not alone!

For a quick summary of Miraca's research, read SENG's "Play Partner" or "Sure Shelter": What Gifted Children Look For in Friendship. For her full presentation, visit Hoagies' Gifted: "Play Partner" or "Sure Shelter"? Why gifted children prefer older friends..

This blog is part of Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop: Gifted Friendships.  Visit the other great blogs in this month's Hop by clicking here.


  1. Really appreciate Miraca Gross' research. So validating and confirms what we frequently see in classrooms, on the playground and in our homes. The trend against ability grouping in most schools does such a disservice to these children and leaves them feeling isolated and chronically "different" from the rest of the world. It can take quite a while before they feel "normal" again and find a group of peers who truly understand them.

    1. Another interesting tidbit from Miraca's later research, as she shared at one of the last NAGC conferences she attended... She found that, as adults, the eg/pg kids who were allowed radical acceleration had more stable and positive friendships and love relationships than those refused grade acceleration or allowed only a "token" single grade skip.

      Being with peers (academic, social, etc.) is good for kids AND adults!

  2. This post brings to mind the need to facilitate meaningful online relationships for children who are isolated for various reasons and don't have access to intellectual peers. Thanks for this thought provoking post!

    1. Check out the next post, You are not alone! Finding gifted community
      for more on finding this community for ourselves and our kids!

  3. School was in no way a good experience for me, mostly because I had no friends. It's a really lonely way to be educated.

    1. Sorry to hear that. I hope you find more community now.