6 Effects of Labeling Children as Gifted

For a child with high abilities, receiving a diagnosis can help them get the support they need, but it can also bring several disadvantages. Here's why.
6 Effects of Labeling Children as Gifted
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 14 May, 2024

Children with giftedness face daily challenges such as a lack of motivation in the classroom, intense emotions, and sensitivity to sensory stimuli. These situations can make them feel alone and misunderstood. Receiving a diagnosis can be helpful in this regard. But are you aware of all of the effects of labeling children as gifted?

Currently, giftedness is understood as an innate potential to be developed. These children have above-average cognitive abilities, but they need appropriate environments to develop their creativity and achieve success.

Diagnosis is the starting point for appropriate intervention. However, if this approach isn’t considered, labeling children as gifted can have its disadvantages.

What are the effects of labeling children as gifted?

A young girl wearing glasses and standing in front of a chalkboard full of mathematical and scientific equations.

Parents and teachers may suspect that a child has high abilities by observing his or her usual behavior. For example, some common characteristics of this condition include the following:

  • A broad vocabulary,
  • excellent abstract thinking,
  • great curiosity and memory,
  • highly self-demanding,
  • and ease of learning when the task is motivating.

In the face of these signs, a clinical diagnosis is usually sought to confirm suspicions. But how does it affect a child’s life if they begin to be considered highly gifted? As you’ll see, the implications can be both positive and negative. Be sure to check them out!

1. Emotional validation

Receiving a diagnosis can be a relief for the highly gifted child because the label validates their experience. It helps them understand why they think, feel, and behave the way they do. It provides clarity about their qualities and strengths as well as their difficulties and challenges.

Therefore, the sense of being inadequate or defective (which they may have felt at earlier times) dissipates in light of the label of giftedness, which gives meaning to their experience.

2. Belonging to a group

At the same time, it helps these children to feel like part of a group. It’s important to take into account that giftedness is present in only 3 to 15% of the population (García-Ron & Sierra-Vázquez, 2011). Because of this, it’s common for children to feel odd, different, and poorly connected with their peers.

Knowing that their situation isn’t unique and that there are other children like them with the same strengths, interests, concerns, or difficulties can bring relief and help forge a more positive identity.

3. Receiving support and accommodations

Although highly gifted children have superior intellectual abilities, this doesn’t always make schooling easier. In fact, it’s estimated that school failure occurs in 10-15% of cases, which is generated by the demotivation and the emotional and social problems that these minors tend to experience.

In this regard, labeling children as gifted can help teachers and educational centers take appropriate measures to facilitate support and adaptations (Luque et al., 2017).

These will consist of expanding, enriching, and deepening the contents, in addition to enhancing the child’s skills and interests. But, if giftedness goes undetected, these resources won’t be implemented.

4. Generation of a stigma

However, not everything is positive. Labeling children as gifted can also generate stigma due to the many myths that are still held in regard to this condition.

Highly gifted children are often considered to be strange, different, and unsociable. Many mistakenly believe that these kids don’t want to have friends or that, because they have a superior cognitive endowment, they must be inferior in other aspects, such as sports or the arts.

Children and adults can fall into these myths and begin to treat the child in a different and non-positive way when they learn about their label. This can lead to isolation and significant damage to their self-esteem and identity.

In fact, according to an article published in the Revista de Educación, about 50% of highly gifted children suffer from bullying.

5. Lack of understanding and emotional support

A young elementary student looking overwhelmed.

At the same time, knowing that a child is highly gifted can lead parents to lose sight of the fact that their child is still a child. This is known as emotional asynchrony and refers to the fact that, despite their high cognitive capacity, these children often have difficulty understanding their rich inner world and dealing with their intense emotions.

If the adults in charge don’t take this reality into account, they may fall into the error of thinking that the child is as skilled with their emotions as they are with their mind. Therefore, parents and teachers may neglect the task of giving them the support they need, validating them, and teaching them how to manage their internal states.

6. Feelings of pressure and demand

Finally, labeling a child as gifted can generate in children a great deal of pressure at a psychological level. When they’re diagnosed, everyone expects excellent performance and the best results from them.

Therefore, excessive demands are made on them, and a burden is placed on their shoulders that can lead to anxiety, stress, and low levels of well-being. In fact, as reported in an article published in the Journal of Psychology and Education, perfectionism and self-demand are common in these children.

Very gifted people, they win and they win, and they are told that they win because they are a winner. That seems like a positive thing to tell children, but ultimately, what that means is when they lose, it must make them a loser.

~ Joshua Waitzkin ~

A positive approach to giftedness is the best strategy

As you can see, receiving a diagnosis of giftedness can have both positive and negative repercussions. Therefore, if you want to take advantage of this label and minimize its harmful effects, it’s important that parents and teachers are well-informed and aware of its implications.

The label of high intellectual giftedness should help us to understand the reality of the child and, from there, offer school adaptations and family and professional support to enhance their strengths and help them overcome their challenges.

This label should never be an excuse to exert pressure, have unreasonable expectations, or forget that the child is still a child who needs understanding, affection, and guidance.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Algaba Mesa, A., & Fernández Marcos, T. (2021). Características socioemocionales en población infanto-juvenil con altas capacidades: una revisión sistemática. Revista de psicología y educación, 16, 60–74.
  • García-Ron, A., & Sierra-Vázquez, J. (2011). Niños con altas capacidades intelectuales. Signos de alarma, perfil neuropsicológico y sus dificultades académicas. Anales de pediatría continuada9(1), 69-72. https://www.elsevier.es/es-revista-anales-pediatria-continuada-51-articulo-ninos-con-altas-capacidades-intelectuales–S1696281811700105
  • González-Cabrera, J., Machimbarrena, J. M., Ortega-Barón, J., & Álvarez-Bardón, A. (2020). Joint association of bullying and cyberbullying in health-related quality of life in a sample of adolescents. Quality of life research29, 941-952.
  • Luque, M., Luque, D., & Hernández, R. (2017). Altas capacidades intelectuales y dificultades de aprendizaje. Notas para la intervención psicopedagógica. Revista de Orientación Educativa AOSMA24, 8-13. https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=7362189
  • Renzulli, J. S., & Reis, S. M. (2021). The three ring conception of giftedness: A change in direction from being gifted to the development of gifted behaviors. Conceptions of giftedness and talent, 335-355.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.