Sunday, August 16, 2009


This is a synopsis of major works on the psychology and development of gifted women, summarized from chapter 5 of Smart Girls.

-There were an abundance of negative steriotypes about gifted children in the early 1900s. Terman studies (1921-1922) of the top 1% of students in some California school districts as sorted by the stanford-binet IQ test revealed above average physical and social development and slightly lower grades than expected.

-Kaufmann presidential scholars study (1981 and 1986) discovered that in the extrordanarily gifted sample she studied, women were less likely to have married or had children than their less gifted counterparts, and that they were still underpaid compared to the men. She also learned that those who had mentors were paid as well as the men.

-The Illinois valedictorian project (Arnold 1994) showed a steady attrition of female subjects starting in the sophmore year of college, with a severe decrease in intellectual self-esteem. This decrease did not show up in male subjects despite identical academic achievement. Over the same period, female subjects became very concerned with combining family and career, and for this reason began dropping out of academically challenging programs; males did not. Most of the females intended to interrupt their education and/or careers for childrearing, and the males did not. Career status ten years after graduation, for female subjects, was largely dependent on “values surrounding career and family combinations, as well as willingness to interupt career plans.”

-The Groth vocational development study (1969) discovered that gifted girls developed an intense desire for affection and love around the age of fourteen, which continued until the age of 40—at which point “self-esteem regained importance.” The gifted males in the study, on the other hand, “tended to maintain strong interests in achievement throughout adolescence and adulthood, into retirement age.” Later research has confirmed that gifted females tend experience more need for achievement during specific critical periods. (Reis 1996)

-Brown and Gilligan (1992) found that while younger girls (primary school) were often outspoken and opinionated, by the teen years many of the same individuals had lost confidence in their own perspectives; their communication became filled with qualifiers, pauses, and especially the phrase “I don't know.” This was found to be associated with “learning to be nice,” and “hiding opinions and feelings which they considered possibly hurtful to others.”

-In 1990, Holland and Eisenheart found that among their sample of high achieving female college students with serious intentions towards having a career, “less than 25% of their activities were directed towards schoolwork or career. . . the dominant topic of conversations between participants and their peers was relationships with men. Even talk about other women centered around those women's ties to men.” Confirming earlier research, they also found that while social status and prestiege for men were centered around achievement, social status and prestiege for women were centered around relationships with men. The women in the study generally downsized their original career goals, shifting to less challenging majors.

-Card, Steele, and Abales (1980), devised a metric for comparing the level of “achievement potential” (early achievement and expectations) with the level of it's realization. They found that in all socio-economic groups men had a better “potential”/”achievement” ratio than women—and that in the group with the highest achievement potential, women fell the furthest behind men. These results have been confirmed by more recent studies (Loprest, 1992).

-In 1979, Rodenstein and Glickhauf-Huges defined their terms and then categorized subjects as career focused, homemakers, or integrators. They found that the career focused subjects had more scientific interests, and homemakers had more social ones, with integrators falling between. All had had parental support for their choices, but the career focused were the most likely to have ignored both positive and negative feedback from parents. Perhaps most importantly, integrators were as satisfied with their careers as career focused women, and as satisfied with their roles as wives and mothers as homemakers.

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