Professor Joan Freeman is a distinguished psychologist working in the development of human abilities to their highest levels. She has conducted and supervised substantial research, notably her continuing study of gifted children since 1974, and has published widely in this area, including 16 books. She has been honoured with The Lifetime Achievement Award for 2007 from the British Psychological Society.
No conception of giftedness or talent works in a cultural vacuum... A cross-cultural view picks up a wide variety of international templates for the identification and education of the gifted and talented, which are sometimes entirely opposing. The wider view can demonstrate unrecognised stereotyping and expectations, and illustrate the often serious effects of social influences on opportunities for the development of high-level potential and its promotion throughout life.
In Britain, the academic achievements of gifted girls in grade school are surpassing those of gifted boys in almost all areas of study and at all ages, whereas this does not appear to be the case in the USA. The evidence suggests two major reasons for this difference. Emotionally, British girls are now showing greater confidence in their abilities.
The study, begun in 1974 across the UK, used a battery of tests, including IQ, personality, behaviour and in-depth interviewing for children, parents and teachers. The group of labelled gifted were found to have significantly more emotional problems than the non-labelled group, which they mostly grew out of. Now in their forties, a gifted childhood has not always delivered outstanding adult success. Better predictive factors were hard work, emotional support and a positive, open personal outlook.
The gifted and talented can be expected to be emotionally at least as well balanced as any others. In fact, most are well equipped to face the world, to cope with expectations and threats, as well as being particularly sensitive to interpretation and prediction of the feelings and behaviour of other people. But because of their exceptionality they do face special challenges, and so to help them a counsellor must recognise and understand these and the effects they can have.