Study: Gifted Students Become Bully Magnets

Bullying in the gifted-student population is an overlooked problem that leaves many of these students emotionally shattered, making them more prone to extreme anxiety, dangerous depression and sometimes violence, according to a Purdue University researcher.
In what is believed to be the first major study of bullying and gifted students, researchers found that by eighth grade, more than two-thirds of gifted students had been victims. Varying definitions of bullying in other studies make comparisons difficult, although the prevalence here is similar to findings in a few other studies.
“All children are affected adversely by bullying, but gifted children differ from other children in significant ways,” says Jean Sunde Peterson, an associate professor of educational studies in Purdue’s College of Education.
“Many are intense, sensitive and stressed by their own and others’ high expectations, and their ability, interests and behavior may make them vulnerable. Additionally, social justice issues are very important to them, and they struggle to make sense of cruelty and aggression. Perfectionists may become even more self-critical, trying to avoid mistakes that might draw attention to themselves.”
Read the entire article here.

3 thoughts on “Study: Gifted Students Become Bully Magnets”

  1. This headline is misleading.
    The article cites figures from other studies of 60%-90% of all students as having been targets of bullying and the study found that 67% of gifted students had been targets. That puts gifted students at the low end of the range of the estimate for all students.
    It also says that around 20% of all students were bullies (again, from other studies) and found that 16% of gifted students defined themselves as bullies and that 28% of gifted students reported having bullied others. Again, this eems to be in the range of the general student population.
    Despite the comparative language used in the article, there seems to have been little or no attempt at comparisons in the study. Here is a quote from another article:
    “Because the Purdue study did not contain a control group and was not designed as a comparative study, it is impossible to determine whether the bullying that gifted children described differs in quality or quantity from that experienced by their peers.”
    Without a control group I am also confused by the central conclusion that gifted students react differently and are harmed more by bullying. Perhaps someone with access to Gifted Child Quarterly could clarify this?

  2. Jeff
    Thank you.
    Here is my answer (p. 14):
    “Though some of the percentages of prevalence were not high, the authors speculate that, if the literature attesting to a relationship between giftedness and emotional intensity and sensitivity is accurate, gifted children and early adolescents might be somewhat uniquely affected by bullying. However, this study did not compare gifted youth to children and adolescents not identified as such, and therefore it is only speculation that gifted students might respond with more sensitivity than others to teasing about appearance, for example.”
    In a word “speculation.” That’s nice.

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