Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Development of Gender Identity, Gender Roles, and Gender Relations in Gifted Students

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Development of Gender Identity, Gender Roles, and Gender Relations in Gifted Students

Article excerpt

Counselors can help gifted students more effectively when they understand the interaction of giftedness, gender identity, and gender role and the ways in which many gifted educational practices are gendered. A model for the development of talent in the context of gender must also include the interactions of gender with privilege. Counselors can reduce inequities for gifted students at all levels of education by confronting gendered practices in education--all those practices that are based on gender role expectations rather than on what is best for the individual student.

In this article, giftedness is defined as one's potential for exceptional achievement or eminence in a domain, similar to the definition offered by Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius, and Worrell (2011). Gender identity is the subjective sense of one's maleness or femaleness (Johnson & Wassersug, 2010). Sexual orientation refers to the direction of one's sexual attraction, generally categorized as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Gender role is defined as the expectations of a society about the proper behaviors for males or females (Eagly, 2013). Gender relations are the attitudes and behaviors of males and females in relationships with one another and the ways in which gender roles shape social relations (Ridgeway, 2009). Each of these has an impact on how giftedness is perceived and developed. Finally, distance from privilege is defined as the distance that an individual must travel to reach the center of power in any domain, in terms of overcoming barriers such as gender, race, class, age, and citizenship. This concept, in addition to gender concepts, expands the Model of Talent Development given by Subotnik et al. so that a road map is provided for nurturing both gifted male and female individuals.

Gender identity is considered to be a spectrum of beliefs and emotions rather than the traditional sense of a dichotomy of male and female (Eagly, 2013). Gender identity has developmental stages paralleling cognitive development. Toddlers (ages 1-4) have a very fluid gender identity; being a boy or girl does not matter much to toddlers. This indifference gives way to gender rigidity in early childhood (about ages 4-7), when both boys and girls strictly enforce gender rules. What may be puzzling to many parents is the tendency of little children to think that it is their clothing or toys that make them boy or girl. In later childhood, the mature identity can form as children begin to understand that their biological sex is stable (Signorella, 2012).

Gifted students' behavior and preferences often differ from those of their same-sex peers (Kerr, 1997; Terman & Oden, 1935); gifted girls are more like gifted boys than like other girls. As a result, gender identity formation may be more complicated. Gifted girls not only are likely to enjoy boys' activities but also may have an early awareness of sexism and reject the second-class status of the female gender role (Kerr, 1997; Kerr & McKay, 2014). Although gifted girls are more like gifted boys in their interests and aspirations, they experience the same socialization as average girls; that is why gifted girls' gender identity can be conflicted (Miller, Falk, & Huang, 2009).

Gifted boys also struggle with gender identity issues when they prefer creative activities to activities prescribed for males, such as sports and an interest in video games. They often fear that loving art, music, and drama may mean that they are not masculine enough (Kerr & Cohn, 2001). There is some evidence that the millennial generation of adolescents and young adults regards gender identity and sexual orientation as much more fluid and changeable compared with previous generations (Galinsky, Aumann, & Bond, 2012). This may mean less pressure on creative boys to prove their masculinity by the avoidance of creative activities. One of the most striking differences in millennials is their tolerance for, and performance of, a wide variety of gender identity and sexual orientation combinations (B. …

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