Children who are very intelligent may possess correlative behavioral problems as the result of feeling misunderstood, developing at such an accelerated rate compared to their peers that they feel bored, having their intellectual development exceed their social development or even not realizing they are gifted. Polish psychologist and psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski researched other possible causes of behavioral problems in gifted children and theorized that they simply show more intensity than their peers in one or more of five categories: psychomotor, sensual, emotional, intellectual or imaginational.
Psychomotor Causes of Behavioral Problems
Very intelligent children who display rapid speech, nervous tics, a seeming lack of need for sleep or impulsive behavior possess psychomotor intensity. They are frequently diagnosed or misdiagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder due to speaking or moving far more than their peers. However, research by Dabrowski shows it may simply reveal a surplus of energy or nervousness of the highly intelligent child instead of a disorder.
Sensual Behavioral Problems
Sensual behavioral problems in very intelligent children may result in the child seeming unusually interested in clothing, appearance, jewelry or ornaments. Children may also complain of being acutely aware of smells, sounds or tastes and may display increased attention to shirt labels being itchy or showing a dislike for activities such as walking barefoot on grass. If children repeat these behaviors constantly, they may be misdiagnosed as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Emotional Behavioral Problems
Dabrowski wrote that highly intelligent children with emotional behavioral problems may show shyness, anxiety, loneliness or depression, and at a higher intensity than their peers. As most children attempt to form attachments to peers and adults, the gifted child with emotional behavioral problems does so in a deeper or needier way. Children experience the same emotions as their peers, but are differentiated by the extremeness with which they feel. Their strong attachments may also come into conflict with their desire to live life highly and competitively.
Causes of Intellectual Problems
Highly intelligent children with intellectually-related behavioral problems show heightened intellectual responses to questions and answers. Because of their intense interest in a variety of matters, parents and educators may think that the child isn't focused on matters at hand. Instead, children show a more intense concentration on ethics and morals that may prevent them from completing tasks and assignments on schedules followed by their peers.
Imaginational Behavioral Problems
The fifth category of problems Dabrowski identified as belonging to highly intelligent children is marked by free and vivid imaginations. These children may appear to be lying or making up stories, but further inspection shows that they simply possess highly active imaginations. They tend to show an attachment to the arts, experience vivid dreams, and are able to recount their dreams in great detail.
- Journal for the Education of the Gifted; Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration and Giftedness: Overexcitability Research Findings
- Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults; James T. Webb
- Northwestern University Center for Talent Development: Intense Behaviors of the Gifted: Possible Roadblocks to Academic Achievement
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