Growing up as an exceptional, gifted person has many pleasures and perils, and whether we are male or female (not to mention transgender) may have deep impacts on values, interests and ways we realize our multiple potentials.
In an article of mine on gender, I comment there seems to be an endless fascination with looking for differences in behaviors, attitudes, abilities and brain function between the sexes, but as a scientific pursuit it is a search with both technical and political/philosophical dimensions, and findings that are often inconsistent or open to variable interpretation.
As writer Diane Halpern notes, “Cognitive abilities are heterogeneous, and whether we find gender differences depends on what, who, and when (in the life span) we test.”
Dr. Carol Tavris says that scientists in the past “tried to argue that women had smaller frontal lobes and larger parietal lobes than men did – until researchers reported that parietal lobes might be associated with intellect. A miracle followed : anatomists suddenly ‘found’ that women’s parietal lobes were smaller than they had believed.”
From my article Gender and Brain Imaging.
Matthew C. Makel of the Duke University Talent Identification Program writes about some gender differences in his article “When the Gifted Grow Up” reposted here:
What happens to gifted kids when they grow up?
A hundred years ago, people feared that early ripe would lead to early rot, with gifted children growing up to lead difficult adulthoods.
Numerous counterexamples have diminished that belief. Today, a more common discussion is about the differences between gifted males and females.
One particularly well discussed difference commonly found between gifted males and females are their preferences.
These preference differences can range from course enrollment and how to spend free time all the way to lifestyle choices, priorities in balancing careers and family, and relationships.
As part of a longitudinal study following a group of gifted youth as they grow up, a recent set of studies analyzed the life values and personal views of gifted kids who had reached adulthood.
One thing that the study clearly showed was that there were large differences between males and females in their life values and personal views as they became adults and parents.
Similarities and Differences
Gifted males and females rated many things similarly, including the right to find the correct person to marry, wanting to provide their children with better opportunities than they had growing up, and having time to enjoy leisure.
However, women tended to rate as more important having flexible work hours, strong friendships, doing community work, and living near family than did men.
On the other hand, men were more likely than women to desire full-time careers, money, and to be recognized in their field.
Whether or not a male had children was rarely associated with different responses. However, females without children were more likely to give responses similar to those of males than to females with children. Mothers put more emphasis on career flexibility, making sure no one was left behind, and their ability to multitask.
Despite valuing different aspects of life, the researchers report that all groups reported being generally satisfied with their lives and careers, but that parents reported being even more satisfied than those without children. In fact, the authors note that gifted children who grew up to have children of their own reported life satisfaction scores similar to the most satisfied comparison groups that been measured.
These findings show that despite having different values and goals in life, these gifted children-as they have grown into adulthood are generally satisfied with their lives. However, the satisfied life for one may look very different from one another.
Ferriman, K. , Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (2009). Work preferences, life values, and personal views of top math/science graduate students, and the profoundly gifted: Developmental changes and gender differences during emerging adulthood and parenthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 517-532.
Source: When the Gifted Grow Up, by Matthew C. Makel, Digest of Gifted Research (Duke Univ.) August 30, 2010.
[Photo at top from video on Who We Are page of The Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP).
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Some related articles:
Gender Differences in Gifted Achievement In Britain and the USA By Joan Freeman.