Early Childhood Giftedness & Aggressive Behavior

By Monica Stevens
Aggressive behavior is sometimes found in gifted young children.
Aggressive behavior is sometimes found in gifted young children.

Aggression is a normal part of expressing emotions in early childhood for all children. While parents are tasked with disciplining unruly behavior, underlying causes may sometimes contribute to aggressive outbursts. In very young children, giftedness may present itself not only through precocious knowledge but also in high energy levels and extreme curiosity that can frustrate both child and parent alike.

Not Like the Others

There is no hard-and-fast formula for determining giftedness in children under age 4, though researchers note that they are usually high-performing in the areas of intellect, creativity or leadership. In a report for CNN, writer Chandra Moseley describes the joys and difficulties of raising a child who began to demonstrate gifted qualities at a very young age. Moseley notes that simple preschool activities became a source of tantrum-inducing frustration for her perfectionist daughter. According to the National Association for Gifted Children, some 20 to 25 percent of gifted kids experience emotional or social issues. That figure stands nearly twice that for what is reported for children overall. Still, many gifted children experience no behavioral or emotional issues at all in early childhood nor as they grow older.

Gifted -- or Something Else?

Parents and teachers may misinterpret the behavioral issues that sometimes accompany giftedness. Writing for “Psychology Today,” David Palmer, Ph.D., notes that gifted children are also sometimes grossly misdiagnosed with neurological disorders like autism or neurobehavioral issues like ADHD. However, the population of gifted children are not excluded as a whole from the same disabilities that impact other young learners. According to the NAGC, children with dual giftedness and a learning disability require extremely tailored attention from parents and teachers to appropriately guide and challenge their growth.

Individualized Plan

Just like older gifted youth who act out at school because they are far ahead of the curriculum, gifted toddlers may act up when they are unchallenged, according to Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D., in an article for Brainy-Child.com. Gifted children may become aggressive or demonstrate poor behavior when they are frustrated. This is particularly true for very young children, who have not yet learned how to channel their energy and cannot express dissatisfaction in the way an older child might. Because of this, gifted children require specialized attention designed to nurture and develop their high potential. Sadly, many children with these unique abilities and untapped talents will go unidentified. Gifted and talented education programs can provide the environment to enhance and accelerate learning opportunities for young children of great promise, if they are properly recognized.

Targets for Aggression

Gifted children are sometimes the source of aggressive behavior, but many of them must also cope with aggression demonstrated towards them by their peers. Because the gifted are intellectually removed from their age group, they may face a harder time relating in social settings, such as play dates or preschool. In early childhood, this can impact how a youngster grows to understand the world around them. As they grow older, gifted children can experience sharp anxiety and intense feelings of rejection -- and two-thirds of gifted youth say they have experienced bullying, according to a 2012 report in the journal “Understanding Our Gifted.”

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Monica Stevens has been a professional writer since 2005. She covers topics such as health, education, arts and culture, for a variety of local magazines and newspapers. Stevens holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, with a concentration in film studies, from Pepperdine University.