Social and Emotional
Issues in the
Lives of Prodigies
MORE THAN half a century ago Franziska Baumgarten observed that the child prodigy exhibits a curious mix of child and adult qualities. 1 In the intellectual sphere there is at least one realm in which the child prodigy performs as an adult. This is of course what defines the child as a prodigy. And yet, the child's mind is not all of a piece. Amazing precocity in a specific field may not accompany advanced reasoning in other areas. Some prodigies tend to have relatively pure talents, demonstrating extreme ability in a single area while being generally average in most others. The young artist Yani seems to be such an example in the visual arts; Mi Dori's accomplishments on the violin far outstrip her school record; and in my own group of six subjects, Randy McDaniel is an accomplished writer and sometime poet, yet has not always distinguished himself scholastically.
The prodigy's rapid mastery of a specific field of intellectual endeavor is generally not accompanied by a corresponding maturity in social or affective development. Child psychiatrist Rima Laibow (her real name),