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Friday, December 13, 2013

Gifted College Students and Androgynous Identities



College students are trying to determine an identity in life and a path forward in their careers. Gifted college students don’t fit well into narrow stereotypes and maintain identities that are deep and complex. Research by Miller, et. al. (2009) on gifted gender roles indicate that gifted excitability and higher potential have androgynous identities that accept a more complex set of male and female personality traits.

Gender identity and personality are associated into an intertwined relationship. Incorrectly people assume that males are supposed to be instrumental while females are supposed to be expressive. There is an assumption that the sex is related in some way to the personality and behavior of the individual. Societal influence appears to be the most profound definition of how boys and girls should act. 

Males and females are considered opposite ends of the spectrum. Generally, people adhere to one or the other.  When doing so they prescribe tightly to social norms regardless of internal processes.  When individuals have androgyny they are capable of accepting both male and female aspects of their personality within the same individual construct. Undifferentiated individuals do not adhere to either male or female roles nor have they integrated varying aspects of gender behavior. 

Androgynous individuals are considered psychologically the healthiest. They can understand their personal characteristics as existing on a plane of traditional male to female aspects and accept the varying degrees of their personality that fits within these modes. They are not rigidly defined by sex norms and are situational in their actions and behaviors. One aspect of their personality may be more masculine (i.e. sports) while another could be more feminine (i.e. empathy) in traditional sex roles.

According to Dabrowski’s theory of high gifted development with over excitability, their success lays in developmental potential, social environment, and internal decision-making.  Those with over-excitabilities that impact the central nervous system develop to higher levels because they have stronger experiences of emotional, intellectual, imaginational, sensual, and psychomotor stimuli. When an individual contains all of the potentials they have the highest capabilities for development.

The authors study of 562 gifted college students found that those with androgynous identities have intense over-excitabilities. Such individuals have the highest potential for advanced personality development. Of all the excitabilities emotional, intellectual, and imaginational seems to have the greatest influence on personality development.  Colleges and teachers should not rigidly define sex and stereotypes for this group so as to ensure the most comfortable learning environment.

We can draw some inferences from this study. Gifted college students do not fit rigidly into male and female social roles. Those with the highest excitabilities and potential incorporate aspects of both male and female traits within their personality. This is part of advanced development. When people rigidly define their behaviors by their sex they lack a sense of awareness and genuiness about themselves which can create tension. Professors should avoid pushing less developed stereotypes about sex roles on gifted college students who have higher potentials in multiple facets of their personalities.

Miller, et. al. (2009). Gender identity and the overexcitability profiles of gifted college students. Roeper Reivew, 31 (3).

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