Barriers Affecting Talented and Gifted Girls From Actualizing Their Potentials

Introduction

This dissertation aims to explore the various existing barriers that inhibit talented and gifted girls from actualizing their potentials. The numbers of academically talented and gifted children in the USA have been growing with the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) estimating it to be at 3M in grades K-12 alone. The state admits that it does not have exact numbers of other categories of talents but agrees that there are many other categories. Although the numbers of gifted children are many at early stages as shown, those who live up and actualize their potentials at later stages are very few. Some of the studies have pointed to the drop of self-esteem in women as they grow up (AAUW, 1991) as the reason behind this negative trend[1]. Social science studies have always portrayed gifted individuals as often being perfectionists, introverts, idealists, and visionary in perception. These characters sometimes negatively affect their normal development resulting in a lack of self-esteem. An ongoing study from 1986-1998 on career development of gifted female students classes in Taiwan found out that 68% failed to develop their potential (Ching, 2002)[2]. True peer interactions have been rare and since most of these girls are multi-talented with low tolerance levels they are always impatient when working with their peers.

Literature Review

The reviewed literature here relates to some of the identified factors affecting the full actualization of talented and gifted girls’ achievements. Factors affecting the full actualization of a girl child in her achievements have consistently been grouped into two categories; internal factors and external factors. Some of the identified Inhibitory internal factors that have worked against achievement of women’s goals include mismatch between self identification and expectation. The society expects women to put demands of others first and as noted by Gilligan in 1982 they have to examine themselves in terms of their abilities to care for others1. Historically, women’s main role is to take care of, and help their children and spouses. Consequently, many women report frustration whenever they try to reconcile these roles with pursuing carrier development dreams to the fullest heights. As Reis 1991 argued gifted women spend too much time on their family and children2. They may abandon their carrier goals or needs to meet the cultural expectations. Development of self efficacy has also been pointed as an internal hindrance to achievement of a women’s career. Studies have shown a positive correlation between self esteem and academic achievements in women’s later lives. Unfortunately, the external and internal barriers that gifted women face have curtailed the normal development of self efficacy. They are exposed to few role models, careless parents and peers who most of the times are discouraging. Research findings by Buescher 1987 noted that 65% of gifted girls rarely expose their talents compared to only 15% of the boys3. Many of these gifted girls doubt their abilities and do not want to be identified as having superior values different from their peers and tend to underestimate their abilities (Kerr, 1994)4. In one of the studies in New York, it was discovered that 3 out of 4 gifted girls did not believe in their superior intelligences (Walker et al., 1992)5. If they do not believe in their abilities, probability is high that they may not fulfill their potential. There is a positive correlation between perceived abilities by female students and their ultimate achievements (Multon et al., 1991); therefore their self perception of their own abilities is a key factor in keeping gifted girls to actualize their abilities6. Perfectionism has also been identified as a personal element working against talented girls in achieving their goals. They spend most of their time trying to be perfect. Gifted women have also a tendency of setting their competence to perfection levels guided by standards that are unnecessarily high.

External factors include environment of the gifted children, encouragement from employers, family members, peers and their teachers. Early educational environments where teachers demand forced learning leaves talented girls joyless and slow in learning new skills that might enrich their creative development. This is generally caused by personal resistance from the young talented girls since most of them have a tendency to protect their inner vision fiercely. Another factor affecting development of gifted girls is the increased public exposure. The high public expectations demanded from them; the loss of privacy; and fear of failing in the eyes of the public especially when their inabilities are disclosed make them loose some level of confidence in what they do. They always face public humiliation whenever they demonstrate anything controversial in the eyes of the public. Abuse can be another factor in the inhibition of giftedness in girls. This sort of action not only cause trauma but also erodes self esteem of the gifted girls. More inhumane acts like rape and incest may have everlasting impacts on gifted women. The family as part of the socialization agent forms the important centre that contributes to the development of the child. This is necessitated by research in social sciences and psychology that has shown the influence of one’s early life and the considerable impact on individuals’ later achievements. The family is expected to give support the student need, the type of learning resources, and a flexible environment for the child to exercise self control. This builds in pupils some level of confidence and better personal relationships that are equally important as the mastery of the actual skills and knowledge. Children with a high confidence in what they do are more likely to achieve higher achievements than those with a poor self image (Freeman, 2003)7. Talented pupils in schools are known for creating a variety of creative learning environments that allows faster mastery of concepts and provides a level of autonomy while working (Freeman, 2003). Unfortunately, the limited resources provided to education institutions limits teachers ability to accurately select these cadre of students (Freeman, 2003). Research has shown that talents takes on a variety of forms and manifests itself at different times of life time. Recent studies on gender and talents have shown that talented and gifted girls have similar intellectual interests and behaviors’ like boys but always underestimates their abilities (Reis, 1998).

There is a need to build confidence in female students and create awareness that they are gifted and talented. Research shows that those who are aware of their giftedness are highly self actualizing in their fields while those who were not aware of their competence are either thwarted or under-utilized. These students are connected to their set vision, and are able to pursue their vision confidently fighting with self-doubt and self-criticism. Such students are always in search of deeper satisfaction of their abilities by use of their special ability. Women who passionately engage with their talent but are fighting with self-criticism, self-doubt, and feelings of inferiority often never reach their full actualization achievements. This is often accompanied by depression and consequently reduces their creative ambitions in life (Ibid, 2002).

There are a number of strategies that can enable maximum development of talented and gifted girls. There is need to develop therapies that allow relearning in an environment of play and relaxation to accommodate the gifted girls who have a stronger inner vision. Assistance is needed to reconcile such a vision with other creative aspects of life that they are to learn as normal students. To deal with there publicity, they need to be helped to develop lifestyles that are able to maintain as much privacy as possible. This will give them the peace of their mind and thus be able to accomplish there career goals to fullest level with little interference from the public. Our culture towards giftedness needs to change as it seems to transmit mixed messages to gifted girls especially while at home and at school (Farmer, 1998)8. This requires that the society should be sensitized on such stereotypes that lack any basis in girls’ achievements. For example, at home girls are expected to be submissive, less aggressive and calm while at schools, teachers expect them to speak out, raise questions and be assertive enough in pursuing their talents. Gifted and talented girls have to be guided to deal with the multi potentiality that comes with their abilities. The various abilities and interests present them with a multiple number of career choices which requires a decision on what area to pursue. However, most of them are forced to take on career choices by their parents and teachers because of their abilities. Parents and teachers should be counseled to allow their gifted young girls choose what interests them (Kirsi, 2002)9. There has also evidence that accuse most teachers of giving more preference to boys than girls. More disturbing is the evidence that most gifted girls are negatively treated by their teachers’ especially female teachers who should be their mentors than average girls (Solano, 1977 in Reis 1991). Teachers should be given an opportunity to nurture these students and not to create an environment that discourages their development (Farmer, 1976)10.

Research Questions

  1. What are some of the primary barriers that are /might inhibit your potential development to your full actualization potentials?
  2. What are some of the significant factors that have impacted on your self fulfillment?
  3. Do you think gifted and talented girls have developed their potentials fully?
  4. Is the society supporting development of gifted and talented girls?

Methodology

The study intends to explore the status of gifted and talented girls in our society. The aim is to outline the internal and external barriers that have worked against the full development of this cadre of individuals to actualize their levels. Consequently, the study will adopt a descriptive case study. Descriptive case study designs presents what is or what was in a social system. This includes the conditions existing, relationships, opinions held, processes going on, and trends within a social set up (Best & Khan, 1993)11. The design is chosen for a number of reasons: First, it will give an in-depth analysis on how conservative beliefs of the people in the society influence the development of talented girls. Secondly, the study will strive to understand under what environment and by what processes can talented and gifted girls be prepared and this requires research procedures that enable people working with talented girls to give an account of their own realities. Descriptive case study technique to be utilized will have the advantage of allowing the informants to express themselves in a way that their deeper attitudes and perceptions on these issues are captured

Some of the recommendations include:

  1. Opening up more counseling services for gifted girls in the entire nation. These will assist in identifying the gifted girls early and providing them with favorable environments for maximum development
  2. Schools should not only be centers for developing academicians but also their hidden talents. They should be equipped to deal with other forms of talents outside class. More important is identification of these talents early enough as research as shown early identification leads to maximum development
  3. Teachers should be equipped through in service training in identifying and teaching gifted children to ensure the learning process is well incorporated into the students’ abilities.
  4. The government should ensure that the children’s early life is well provided for as self esteem is built at this time. The gifted girls should be given opportunities in showing their abilities to built confidence and self esteem.

Bibliography

American Association of University Women (AAUW). Short changing girls; shortchanging America: A call for action, 1991 Washington DC.

Best, J & Khan, J. Research in education. Prentice Hall incl, New York, 1993.

Buescher, T. Olszewski, P. & Higham, S. Influences on strategies adolescents are to copy with their own recognized talents. (Report No. EC. 2007 55). Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the society for research in child development. Baltimore, MD, 1987.

Ching, C. Young Gifted women in Taiwan: Barriers or Supports. Department of Special Education, Taiwan, 2002.

Farmer, H. What inhibits achievement and career motivation in women? The Counseling Psychologists, 1976, (16) 12-14.

Farmer, H. Diversity and women’s career development. Sage: London, 1997.

Freeman, J. Actualizing Talent: Implications for Teachers and Schools. Support for Learning,1997 (12) pp 54–59,

Gillian, C. In a different voice: psychological theory and women’s development.: Harvard university press, Cambridge,1982.

Kerr, B. Smart girls: A new Psychology of girls, women and giftedness (eds): gifted Psychology Press, Scottsdale, 1994.

Kirsi, T. Developing Females talent: Case studies of Finnish Olympians. Department of education: University of Helsinki, Finland, 2002.

Multon, D. Brown, S & Lent, R. Relation of self efficacy beliefs to academic outcomes: In a meta-analytic investigation. Journal of communication Psychology,1991, (38) 30-38.

Reis, S. The need for classification in Research designed to examine gender differences in achievement and accomplishment. Roeper Review, 1991, (13) 193-198.

Walker, B. Reis, S & Leonard, J. A developmental investigation of the lives of gifted women. Gifted child Quarterly, 1992, (36), 201-206.

Footnotes

  1. C. Gillian. In a different voice: psychological theory and women’s development.: Harvard university press, Cambridge,1982.
  2. S. Reis. The need for classification in Research designed to examine gender differences in achievement and accomplishment. Roeper, Review 1991, (13) 193-198.
  3. T. Buescher, P, Olszewski, & S. Higham. Influences on strategies adolescents are to copy with their own recognized talents. (Report No. EC. 2007 55). Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the society for research in child development. Baltimore, MD, 1987.
  4. B. Kerr. Smart girls: A new Psychology of girls, women and giftedness (eds): gifted Psychology Press, Scottsdale, 1994.
  5. B. Walker, S. Reis & J. Leonard. A developmental investigation of the lives of gifted women. Gifted child Quarterly, 1992, (36), 201-206.
  6. D Multon S. Brown, & R. Lent. Relation of self efficacy beliefs to academic outcomes: In a meta-analytic investigation. Journal of communication Psychology, 1991, (38) 30-38.
  7. J. Freeman. Actualizing Talent: Implications for Teachers and Schools. Support for Learning, (12) pp 54–59, 1997.
  8. H. Farmer. Diversity and women’s career development. Sage: London, 1997.
  9. T. Kirsi. Developing Females talent: Case studies of Finnish Olympians. Department of education: University of Helsinki, Finland, 2002.
  10. H. Farmer. (1976). What inhibits achievement and career motivation in women? The Counseling Psychologists, 1976,(16) 12-14.
  11. Best, J & Khan, J. Research in education. Prentice Hall incl, New York, 1993.