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The experiences of parents of gifted African American children: a phenomenological study.

Demographic reports of African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race.  students in education and numbers of African American children identified as gifted have remained nearly constant for over 30 years (Alamprese & Erlanger, 1988; United States Department of Education The United States Department of Education (also referred to as ED, for Education Department) is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government. Created by the Department of Education Organization Act (Public Law 96-88), it began operating in 1980.  (USDE USDE United States Department of Education
USDE Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment (Organization of American States)
USDE Undesired Signal Data Emanations
; 1993, 2000). Data on gifted African American students vary between states and regions due to significant numbers of African Americans densely located in large urban areas (Casey, 1994); however, the USDE has reported that African American children comprise 16.1% of the total student population nationwide. Data on children identified as gifted reveal that 8.4% of the total population identified as gifted were African American (USDE, 1993). Additional studies indicate similarly small proportions of African American students identified as gifted (Borland, Schnur, & Wright, 2000; Leppien, 2000; National Coalition of Advocates for Students, 2000; Tomlinson, Callahan, & Lelli, 1997). Further, African American students are consistently significantly underrepresented un·der·rep·re·sent·ed  
Insufficiently or inadequately represented: the underrepresented minority groups, ignored by the government. 
 in gifted programs (Ford, 1992, 1994, 1995).

Needs of Gifted African American Students

Initial research on achievement of identified gifted African American students suggests that traditional gifted programs have failed to adequately challenge and meet the needs of gifted African American students (Ford, 1992, 1995; Hebert, 1998). Ford (1995) also found that African American students feel culturally isolated in programs with few or no other African American peers. Devoting attention to gifted African American students' test anxiety was an important aspect of student retention in gifted pull-out programs. In addition, tutoring, financial support for learning opportunities outside of school, funding of academic competitions, and participation in mentoring programs significantly impacted African American students' participation in gifted academic programs (Ford, 1995; Kerr, Colangelo, Maxey, & Christensen, 1992).

Socio-emotional support. Programs for gifted African American students that have ethnically balanced classrooms, teachers who are culturally sensitive to issues of diversity for African American students, and environments that encourage multisensory multisensory /mul·ti·sen·so·ry/ (mul?te-sen´sah-re) capable of responding to more than one kind of sensory input, as certain neurons in the central nervous system.  approaches to learning appear to improve the quality of socio-emotional functioning of gifted African American students (Grantham & Ford, 1998; Hebert, 1998). Grantham and Ford conducted a case analysis of the social and emotional needs of a high school African American girl. They concluded that the three factors impacting the student's socio-emotional perceptions were peer relations, teacher expectations, and classroom environment. Similarly, Hebert found that factors related to achievement included a multicultural mul·ti·cul·tur·al  
1. Of, relating to, or including several cultures.

2. Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.
 support group of gifted students, multicultural, intellectual, and educational experiences, and supportive teachers and coaches. Although these studies are limited in sample size, they suggest that gifted African American students have a strong need for social connectedness Social connectedness is a psychological term used to describe the quality and number of connections we have with other people in our social circle of family, friends and acquaintances. These connections can be both in real life, as well as online.  to peers and significant adults, with subsequent feelings of acceptance and approval.

Economic deficits. Exact numbers of gifted African American children living in poverty are not available in the literature. The United States Census Bureau The United States Census Bureau (officially Bureau of the Census as defined in Title 13 U.S.C.  11) is a part of the United States Department of Commerce.  (USCB) reports annual figures related to income levels based on numbers of students eligible for free/reduced lunch at school according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 federal guidelines guidelines, a set of standards, criteria, or specifications to be used or followed in the performance of certain tasks.
. The USCB (2000) considers a family of four with an annual income of $22,000 to be living in poverty and, by extension, low SES. Analysis of the literature demonstrates the high prevalence of poverty in African American populations (Campbell, 1999; Casey, 1994; Slocumb & Payne, 2000). Renchler reports that in 1993, over 60% of African American children attended elementary and secondary schools that were overcrowded o·ver·crowd  
v. o·ver·crowd·ed, o·ver·crowd·ing, o·ver·crowds
To cause to be excessively crowded: a system of consolidation that only overcrowded the classrooms.
 and underfunded un·der·fund  
tr.v. un·der·fund·ed, un·der·fund·ing, un·der·funds
To provide insufficient funding for.

underfunded adjinfradotado (económicamente) 

The literature suggests that gifted students living in poverty tend to experience more stress due to the additional concerns related to inadequate food, housing, and safety, as well as hygiene-related issues such as lacking hot water, clean clothes, and good personal grooming
For other uses of 'groom' and 'grooming', see groom.

Personal grooming, or simply grooming, is the art of cleaning, grooming, and maintaining parts of the body.
 (Borland et al., 2000; Shumow, 1997). VanTassel-Baska and Willis (1987) concluded that income level can have a negative effect on scholastic achievement. In addition, gifted African American children from low SES families may perform poorly in school because they may not live in a positive learning community. They may also be distracted dis·tract·ed  
1. Having the attention diverted.

2. Suffering conflicting emotions; distraught.

 by impoverished im·pov·er·ished  
1. Reduced to poverty; poverty-stricken. See Synonyms at poor.

2. Deprived of natural richness or strength; limited or depleted:
 and dangerous circumstances CIRCUMSTANCES, evidence. The particulars which accompany a fact.
     2. The facts proved are either possible or impossible, ordinary and probable, or extraordinary and improbable, recent or ancient; they may have happened near us, or afar off; they are public or
 and/or their social environment may not include adequate role models for achievement (Casey, 1994; Rist, 1996).

Fasmily assistance. The literature suggests that family factors significantly impact the success of gifted African American children. Several studies demonstrate the important role that parents play in influencing success and achievement or failure and under-achievement in gifted African American children (Campbell, 1999; Clark, 1983; Ford & Webb, 1994; Tomlinson et al., 1997). As primary figures of support and nurturing, parents of gifted African American children play significant roles that impact motivation, expectations, and advocacy when partnering with educational professionals and community stakeholders Stakeholders

All parties that have an interest, financial or otherwise, in a firm-stockholders, creditors, bondholders, employees, customers, management, the community, and the government.
. A collaborative team improves the academic, socio-emotional, and financial resources for parents to nurture NURTURE. The act of taking care of children and educating them: the right to the nurture of children generally belongs to the father till the child shall arrive at the age of fourteen years, and not longer. Till then, he is guardian by nurture. Co. Litt. 38 b.  the gifts and talents of African American children (Ford & Harris, 2000).

Parent Concerns

While parent involvement in the lives of their gifted African American children has been found to be critical (Ford & Harris, 2000), Winner (1996) suggests that parents of gifted children in general are often concerned about being unprepared and uneducated about what having a gifted child gifted child

Child naturally endowed with a high degree of general mental ability or extraordinary ability in a specific domain. Although the designation of giftedness is largely a matter of administrative convenience, the best indications of giftedness are often those
 means. Although the majority of the literature on parent concerns focuses primarily on Caucasian parents, the findings have relevance in terms of a basic understanding of the concerns of all parents of gifted children. Keirouz (1990) reviewed the literature on concerns of parents of gifted students. Results of her analysis suggest that five areas of concern are primary among parents of gifted children (Hackney Hackney, inner borough (1991 pop. 164,200) of Greater London, SE England, on the Lea River. Clothing manufacture (in Hackney) and printing and furniture making (in Shoreditch) are the borough's chief industries. London's first theater was built in Shoreditch (c.1575). , 1981). These areas include family roles, parental self-concept, family adaptations, neighborhood and community issues, and educational concerns (Keirouz; Kirk & Gallagher, 1989; Stephens, 1999; Witty wit·ty  
adj. wit·ti·er, wit·ti·est
1. Possessing or demonstrating wit in speech or writing; very clever and humorous.

, 1951). Schictman (1999) analyzed an·a·lyze  
tr.v. an·a·lyzed, an·a·lyz·ing, an·a·lyz·es
1. To examine methodically by separating into parts and studying their interrelations.

2. Chemistry To make a chemical analysis of.

 the experiences of 10 families of gifted children and her findings included parent concerns regarding behavior, family dynamics, and socialization socialization /so·cial·iza·tion/ (so?shal-i-za´shun) the process by which society integrates the individual and the individual learns to behave in socially acceptable ways.


Dangel and Walker (1991) assessed the needs of parents of gifted students for parent education programs in Georgia. The participants represented multiple ethnicities and varied SES levels. They reported the items that received 25% or more of respondents' endorsement. Based on their findings, Dangel and Walker concluded that parents were primarily concerned with social and behavioral development and academic enrichment enrichment Food industry The addition of vitamins or minerals to a food–eg, wheat, which may have been lost during processing. See White flour; Cf Whole grains.  of their gifted children. Parents' desires to understand current technology were attributed to a need to feel competent.

Results of the previous studies suggest that parents of gifted children have concerns related to parenting gifted children, primarily involving learning appropriate techniques to provide enrichment to maximize gifted children's overall development. Recurrent recurrent /re·cur·rent/ (re-kur´ent) [L. recurrens returning]
1. running back, or toward the source.

2. returning after remissions.

 themes include parents' concerns regarding socio-emotional development, academic programs and enrichment, and family adaptation relative to parenting gifted children (Dangel & Walker, 1991 ; Ford, 1995; Hebert, 1998; Keirouz, 1990; Kirk & Gallagher, 1989; Schictman, 1999). However, none of these studies specifically explored the experiences and concerns of parents raising gifted African American children.

In summary, there is little research literature that focuses on the parents of gifted African American children. The existing research on general parent concerns reveals several major themes (Hackney, 1981). These include socialization behaviors (Keirouz, 1990; Schictman, 1999), family dynamics (Keirouz; Kirk & Gallagher, 1989; Schictman; Stephens, 1999), and academic areas (Dangel & Walker, 1991; Keirouz; Schictman). Given the paucity pau·ci·ty  
1. Smallness of number; fewness.

2. Scarcity; dearth: a paucity of natural resources.
 of research examining parents raising gifted children of color not of the white race; - commonly meaning, esp. in the United States, of negro blood, pure or mixed.

See also: Color
 in an urban school district, this study documented the unique perspective of parents of gifted African American children, with a specific focus on a qualitative exploration of their experiences and concerns.


Participants for this study were recruited from a directory of students in the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) classes in a large urban Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850.  County school district. In addition, personal referrals of parents with gifted African American children were provided. Twenty individuals were initially recruited to be interviewed for the study, and 15 of those completed the interview, with the couples interviewed together. Interviews were conducted with 6 single female parents, 3 single male parents, and 3 couples. The mean age of the participants was 40 years. One of the participants was a high school graduate, 5 of the participants had earned a B.A. degree and 6 had earned a graduate degree. The number of children in the family ranged from 1 to 4, with the majority (7 families) having 2 children. Three of the families had an annual family income between $20,000 and $40,000 a year, 5 of the families earned between $40,000 and $60,000, 2 of the families earned between $60,000 and $80,000 a year, 1 family earned between $80,000 and $100,000 a year and 1 family had an annual family income over $100,000. The participants' gifted African American children were between the ages of 9 and 16 and lived with them at least 50% of the time. All participants reported that their gifted children had self-identified as African American. The majority of the gifted children were enrolled at the time in a large urban public school system, with several families having enrolled their children in private schools subsequent to perceived negative experiences in the public school system.

The interviewer met with each family one time at a place of the parents' choosing (most often the family home), and each interview lasted between 60 and 90 minutes. While initial questions were developed, the interviewer asked follow-up questions to clarify or expound ex·pound  
v. ex·pound·ed, ex·pound·ing, ex·pounds
1. To give a detailed statement of; set forth: expounded the intricacies of the new tax law.

 upon the initial responses. These follow-up questions were asked within the context of the relationship established with each participant.

Participants were given demographic questionnaires. A semi-structured interview A semi-structured interview is a method of research used in the social sciences. While a structured interview has a formalized, limited set questions, a semi-structured interview is flexible, allowing new questions to be brought up during the interview as a result of what the  was designed and utilized to gain the lived experienced of the participants regarding their gifted African American children. The questions included: (1) Please describe your experience of academic programming with your child. (2) Please describe your experience of your child's interactions with other children, (3) How do you go about providing resources for your gifted child? and (4) Are there any experiences or concerns that we have not discussed regarding your child? Interviews were recorded and transcribed. Follow-up probes were used as necessary to assist the participants in clarifying their responses.

The transcriptions were entered and analyzed utilizing a qualitative data analysis program according to Moustakas' (1994) modification of the Van Kaam method. This process of qualitative data analysis begins with composition of a list of every relevant expression of the experience (termed horizontilization). Groups of quotations that appear to share common content about the experience are then created. The researcher proceeds to reduction and elimination of overlapping or vague expressions. Each expression must capture a significant understanding of the moment and be abstracted and labeled. The remaining expressions are the invariant (programming) invariant - A rule, such as the ordering of an ordered list or heap, that applies throughout the life of a data structure or procedure. Each change to the data structure must maintain the correctness of the invariant.  constituents (meaning units) of the experience.

These expressions of the experience are clustered into core themes and a thematic the·mat·ic  
1. Of, relating to, or being a theme: a scene of thematic importance.

 label is attached that accurately summarizes the key elements of the theme. Then, each theme with its invariant constituents is checked against the individual transcript A generic term for any kind of copy, particularly an official or certified representation of the record of what took place in a court during a trial or other legal proceeding.

A transcript of record
 of each participant. There must be compatibility in order to proceed. Verbatim ver·ba·tim  
Using exactly the same words; corresponding word for word: a verbatim report of the conversation.

 examples from the transcribed interview are then aligned with each theme to represent the explicit expression of the theme, and a textural-structural description of the theme that records the essence of the experience is provided for each theme. Finally, a composite description of the meanings and essences of the experiences representing the group as a whole is developed from the individual textural-structural descriptions. This description is placed at the introduction to each theme.


This study investigated the perceptions and experiences of parents of gifted African American children. Their stories have not been represented in the research prior to this exploration. As a result, the perspectives elucidated here may be considered a starting place for researchers and educators interested in extending the present understanding of gifted African American children and their families.

This study uncovered a number of experiences and perceptions that merit consideration and discussion. First, neglect of African American parents' experiences in the research parallels their similar experiences of academic neglect of their gifted children. Second, racism perceived by parents presents barriers to parents, their children, and institutions of education. Third, educators may not recognize that parent factors play a significant role in the identification of African American children as gifted.

Lack of Adequate Academic Support

Academic support refers to the educational institution where learning is provided, as well as the instructors who provide the education. In this study, parents had gifted African American children who attended both public schools and private schools and they expressed dissatisfaction with educational interventions, including both classroom and pull-out programs, provided by both public and private schools. In addition, parents also expressed their dissatisfaction with what they perceived as inadequate training and support for teachers who are assigned gifted African American students. One parent commented:
   I don't think the schools, they
   don't have the psychological
   understanding of what gifted
   children go through. And, I
   would like to see some type of
   training. I think if the teachers
   were sensitive in the program
   and the principals were more
   sensitive to the needs--the psychological
   needs and emotional
   needs of gifted children--that
   they could diminish some of
   that [stress] in schools.

Programs. A number of participants expressed dissatisfaction resulting from their perception of their children's wasted time and talents in classes and programs that were not appropriate for their aptitude and achievement levels. The programs for gifted children in this urban school district have historically been underfunded. Gifted students in this district have been provided some minimal pull-out classes, with specified honors classes in mathematics and other subjects provided at the middle and high school levels. Teachers with gifted children in their classroom also have many other children who have significant learning and behavior problems in the same class and these students often take up a significant amount of the teacher's time. As one parent describes her perception of the lack of resources: "I've experienced that schools do not have the types of funding--set aside the funding for programs for the children that really stimulate them." Another couple commented on the effects of the academic neglect of their daughter:
   I get frustrated with--at--the
   school system in that I don't
   think that there's enough
   options for gifted children. I
   think their idea of a gifted child
   is someone who is good in
   math specifically, period. They
   don't take into consideration
   the artist or the musician, or,
   you know the athlete or the
   whoever. They don't think outside
   of the box enough to nurture
   a child wholly ... The other
   thing is, I think that there need
   to be more services available at
   the elementary school level ...
   They put the high achievers in
   private schools (for a summer
   camp program), but they don't
   do anything for the gifted and
   talented ... and then [the summer
   program] is only available
   for 5 kids out of all of the high
   achievers in the school, you
   know, it just--it's not enough.

Similarly, another parent commented about his 8th grader's experience in the classroom: "It seemed like a waste of some kid' s potential. If they already learned something, why should they spend a year and not learn anything new?" Other comments regarding insufficient academic interventions included the experience of quantity instead of quality: "It's not really something that's tailored to their particular gift or ability or aptitude. It' s more a lot of work to keep them busy because they are higher functioning children."

Ford (1995) found that academic programs, mentoring programs, academic competitions, tutoring, and educational planning were highly preferred by gifted African American students. While Ford's finding was limited to high school students, the present study indicates that these parents of gifted African American students are also very interested in appropriate academic programs for their gifted children. Parents expressed dissatisfaction with program options, the narrow range of curricular and extracurricular courses, the lack of individual talent development, and the absence of reinforcement reinforcement /re·in·force·ment/ (-in-fors´ment) in behavioral science, the presentation of a stimulus following a response that increases the frequency of subsequent responses, whether positive to desirable events, or  of foundational academic skills, the low priority that administrators ascribe as·cribe  
tr.v. as·cribed, as·crib·ing, as·cribes
1. To attribute to a specified cause, source, or origin: "Other people ascribe his exclusion from the canon to an unsubtle form of racism" 
 to gifted student programs, and the subsequent boredom Boredom
See also Futility.

Aldegonde, Lord St.

bored nobleman, empty of pursuits. [Br. Lit.: Lothair]

Baudelaire, Charles

(1821–1867) French poet whose dissipated lifestyle led to inner despair. [Fr. Lit.
 experienced by their gifted children.

Teachers. Participants in this study also experienced their gifted children's teachers as unaware of individual differences in terms of student talents, inexperienced in·ex·pe·ri·ence  
1. Lack of experience.

2. Lack of the knowledge gained from experience.

 with students' uneven development, and unfamiliar with personality and cultural characteristics of gifted African American children. The inadequate preparation led some teachers to misperceive mis·per·ceive  
tr.v. mis·per·ceived, mis·per·ceiv·ing, mis·per·ceives
To perceive incorrectly; misunderstand.

 gifted students as oppositional, challenging to authority, incapable of accelerated lessons, and apathetic ap·a·thet·ic
Lacking interest or concern; indifferent.

 to their class environments. According to one parent:
   The educational system in a lot
   of ways rape and rob our kids of
   their talent because of apathy on
   the teacher's part because of
   fear of knowing more than I
   know, sometimes that sassy
   mouth is not a sassy mouth but
   it's just the way that they articulate
   what they know and people
   get caught up in the way they
   say it because they're children.

Parents expressed the desire to have teachers who are more sensitive to the individual needs and emotional needs of gifted African American children. They also expressed a need for teachers to be trained to interact with parents of gifted African American children in a culturally sensitive manner. As one parent remarked on her perception of teachers' low expectations of gifted African American middle school students:
   And then I think the teachers'
   expectations are that they are
   kind of stupid and so even
   when they're working with gifted
   clusters ... the teachers'
   expectations for the most part, I
   think ... is that they're not going
   to do well.

In her study of gifted African American students, Ford (1992, 1994) found that gifted African American students were significantly impacted by their relationships with teachers. A good teacher can empower empower verb To encourage or provide a person with the means or information to become involved in solving his/her own problems  gifted children to use their talents. Similarly, the parents in this study are impacted by their perceptions of teachers as not capable of appropriately educating their gifted African American children. Parents continually expressed concern for their child's education, the struggle of working with a complex school system to get their child tested, placed in gifted programs, and then challenged in those programs, and the lack of support or available infrastructure for them to access services for their gifted child. One parent explicitly stated she was tired of fighting the system. For the participants in this study, relationships with teachers and their children's relationship with teachers were important aspects of parents' positive or negative perceptions of educators. Unfortunately, while there were some positive interactions noted in the interview, the majority of parents interviewed did not have positive feelings about their relationships or their children's relationships with teachers, principals, school counselors A school counselor is a counselor and educator who works in schools, and have historically been referred to as "guidance counselors" or "educational counselors," although "Professional School Counselor" is now the preferred term. , or others whose positions were supposed to be those of service to the students.

Parent Factors

Participants in this study represented various family constellations Family Constellations is a therapeutic method developed by Bert Hellinger and practised by psychologists, psychiatrists psychotherapists and alternative practitioners. Its objective is to release profound tensions within and between people.  and a range of economic status with annual incomes of $20,000 to over $100,000. Nine participants were single parents, with both male and female heads-of-households; three were married couples. The number of children in the family ranged from one to four. The age of parents ranged from 35 to 46 years, and their gifted children ranged from 9 to 16 years of age. Although the sample was small, results indicated certain characteristic factors among these parents. Factors that appeared to be consistent involved level of education, involvement with school organizations, and aggressive advocacy for their gifted children.

Seventy-five percent of the parents interviewed were single parents with the majority having sole custody of their children. This is consistent with demographics The attributes of people in a particular geographic area. Used for marketing purposes, population, ethnic origins, religion, spoken language, income and age range are examples of demographic data.  of African American households where 71% of children are being raised in single-parent homes (USCB, 2000). However, the literature suggests that 60% of African American children being raised by single parents underachieve academically (Ford, 1992). These parents and their children provide a striking contrast.

Level of education. Eleven of the 12 parent participant sets were college-educated. Five parents had bachelor's degrees and six had graduate degrees. Demographic results of this study infer a possible relationship between parents' level of education and the incidence of African American children's identification as gifted. Parents perceived that their comfort with the educational system and their level of education created avenues for them to access services and interact with teachers which maximized their children's experience. In addition, the parents who chose to participate in this study may have done so, in part, because of their level of education. They understand the need for further awareness of their experiences. Due to the lack of investigation in this area, the literature does not currently provide clarification on characteristics of parents of gifted African American children.

School involvement. Half of the parents in this study had worked in the school system and expressed awareness of and close proximity to esoteric es·o·ter·ic  
a. Intended for or understood by only a particular group: an esoteric cult. See Synonyms at mysterious.

 information regarding system bureaucracy. They clearly advocate for their children on a regular basis. According to one parent:
   So, I've been in the education
   system intimately as an advocate
   for 10 years. So, I got to see up
   close and personal everything
   wrong with our system, and
   there are a lot of things that are
   right with the system, as well.

Some parents believed that the education of their children involved other significant adults in addition to parents:
   I think it's very important for the
   caretaker, the guardian, the parent,
   the grandmother, the whoever's
   in charge of the student, to
   let them know that this is a team
   effort; this is a village approach.
   And you will be a part of the village
   or you will not see my child.

Advocacy. Most parents indicated a strong sense of ownership in their child's needs and subsequent responsibility to nurture their talents. Parents also spoke of using their academic backgrounds and connections to the education system to get those needs met. They used the Internet to check the state education websites and visited curriculum stores. Parents researched and purchased additional learning materials such as math workbooks and readers. One parent noted, "I kind of track the standards, the grade level standards and what he's supposed to be doing and I check with his teachers so I can supplement what they're doing." As a parent currently working in the school system who has a graduate degree and a management position remarked about finding additional resources for her children noted,
   ... my thing is even if I don't
   have it, if we don't have it, I will
   get it. I will find it. I will take
   her to the mountain, I will take
   the mountain back with us if we
   have to and we'll dig into the
   mountain. So my thing is, I will
   get it. I will go to midnight. We
   will go to whatever to get what
   either of my children needs to
   be academically successful.

Similarly, this parent commented:
   Fortunately, I work for the education
   system so, you know, I
   just pull curriculum and things
   like that from my school district.
   And a lot of times I will
   go to the educational store and I
   will look for certain packages,
   part of a curriculum, and I'll go
   and buy supplements, workbooks,
   for those certain areas.

Ford and Harris (2000) have proposed that creating culturally responsive classrooms involves allowing parents of gifted African American students access to students' educational processes on a flexible basis. This means that parents have a collaborative relationship with educators and administrators at the school level. It is interesting to note that the parents interviewed had worked to establish such a collaborative relationship; however, they clearly believed that this relationship was based on their similar background and familiarity with the education system and not upon an educational system that was sensitive in reaching out to the African American community. In fact, these parents felt that this common link through "professional" education was the only link that was effective and that other parents without that common background would not be able to connect with the complexity of the school system.

Because of the lack of culturally sensitive programs, these parents also expressed concern that the majority of African American children who might benefit from gifted assessment or intervention would be academically neglected. They knew something of the field of education, they understood the school system and advocated for their child, and they were aware of the amount of time and energy they spent attempting to get their child a solid education. They noted that because of lack of education, long hours at low-paying work, and other social and cultural factors, other parents of African American children might not feel empowered to work the system and, without that work, these gifted children might be easily overlooked.
   There's just so much about this
   system. I know how to do that,
   and I do that, but I watch other
   kids out there who should just
   be nurtured; and it's never
   going to happen for them in
   that way. So, I'm concerned
   about that, the lack of being
   able to navigate the system.

As another parent summarized her encounter with an administrator who was attempting to deny her child access to an AP class that she clearly had tested into, "There are a lot of Black children who have fallen through the cracks simply because the schools are not receptive receptive /re·cep·tive/ (re-cep´tiv) capable of receiving or of responding to a stimulus. . It's like a guarded secret."

Social Isolation

Several parents reported an awareness that their gifted child tended to experience social isolation. This sense of isolation occurred both within the child's gifted peer group, as well as within the African American community. One parent noted: "But sometimes I do note that she's lonely. Sometimes our kids don't want to be smart." Other parents noted that their gifted child was isolated due to cultural perceptions about being intellectually able. They felt that their children experienced a great deal of cultural pressure to underachieve. One parent commented on how she wished it was perceived by African Americans: "... on that perception in our culture and other stuff, that being smart can be really and truly cool." Additionally, parents were concerned that the present isolation would result in future isolation from the African American community.
   She needs more exposure to different
   cultures but especially to
   not be isolated from the subculture
   of African American experience
   because--her dad and I
   have seen a lot of Black kids
   come through private schools
   who seem to be very isolated
   from Black culture as they went
   into adulthood and didn't really
   feel comfortable even dating
   African Americans, being
   around African Americans, and
   we didn't want that to happen.


Although no question specifically addressed it, parents specifically and consistently reported experiences of racism. Racism refers to:
   the assumption that psychocultural
   traits and capacities are
   determined by biological race
   and that races differ decisively
   from one another which is usually
   coupled with a belief in the
   inherent superiority of a particular
   race and its right to domination
   over others. (Merriam
   Webster, 1993, p. 1870)

Participants in this study expressed both anecdotal anecdotal /an·ec·do·tal/ (an?ek-do´t'l) based on case histories rather than on controlled clinical trials.
anecdotal adjective Unsubstantiated; occurring as single or isolated event.
 and systemic systemic /sys·tem·ic/ (sis-tem´ik) pertaining to or affecting the body as a whole.

1. Of or relating to a system.

 experiences of their perceptions of racism with educators and establishments.

Reports of anecdotal racism. Participants were particularly indignant when recounting interpersonal in·ter·per·son·al  
1. Of or relating to the interactions between individuals: interpersonal skills.

 experiences between themselves and educators in the midst Adv. 1. in the midst - the middle or central part or point; "in the midst of the forest"; "could he walk out in the midst of his piece?"
 of interchanges that parents perceived as racist. The relationships were negatively impacted and remembered by parents as significant. By extension, parents expressed concern about what might be occurring between the educators and their gifted African American children. One parent attempted to get her daughter' s program changed from "advanced" to the more rigorous "honors" courses. She experienced opposition from the vice-principal of the school in that process. She commented:
   I came armed with all of my
   information [her daughter's
   math Stanford Achievement
   Test (SAT) scores were at
   98%] and the woman tried to
   tell me that my daughter did
   not--she didn't tell me she
   didn't qualify. But she was very
   unreceptive to my daughter
   being placed in the high-level
   algebra class. Even though she
   was in the ... advanced prealgebra
   class that had covered
   the first part of algebra. And I
   showed her [my daughter's]
   SAT scores. And she looks at
   me and she says, 'Well, you
   know, they take this other
   test'--I said, 'Wait, hold on.
   Excuse me. This is the SAT.
   So, you're telling me that this
   SAT test, this test that your
   school is being judged by, this
   test is not--doesn't count, Oh,
   no, no, no, no' ... And, I just
   felt that that was very racist.
   It's one of those little hidden
   racisms. Because I could not
   imagine if I had been a White
   parent with those high SAT-9
   scores ... I could not imagine
   that woman telling me what she
   told me. Like I said, she wasn't
   negative, she just was not
   responsive ... And then she tried
   to put in, that she [my daughter]
   had been programmed to do
   pre-algebra. She had passed
   pre-algebra with an A ... if anyone
   had just bothered to pull
   her class records from last year
   they would have seen that she
   was already past that, so she
   was supposed to be in algebra.
   And then, when she finally did
   place her into the algebra class,
   she placed her in the algebra A
   class, not the B class (honors).
   And that's when I told her I
   wanted her in the algebra B
   class ... I was truly, truly

Another parent stated what he perceived as institutional racism An editor has expressed concern that this article or section is .
Please help improve the article by adding information and sources on neglected viewpoints, or by summarizing and
 as: "I'll put it this way, steering The process whereby builders, brokers, and rental property managers induce purchasers or lessees of real property to buy land or rent premises in neighborhoods composed of persons of the same race.  children of color away from AP [Advanced Placement] classes." Parents whose children were in the public school system consistently reported feelings of disrespect for their child' s abilities, the feeling that children of color were not noticed in the school setting, and the need to be a strong advocate, as otherwise, their children would be left to coast through the system. Frustration resulting from perceptions of mistreatment mis·treat  
tr.v. mis·treat·ed, mis·treat·ing, mis·treats
To treat roughly or wrongly. See Synonyms at abuse.

 toward their children led some parents to remove their children from classes, programs, and schools.

Reports of systemic racism. Several participants indicated awareness of how to successfully navigate (1) "Surfing the Web." To move from page to page on the Web.

(2) To move through the menu structure in a software application.
 the educational system to meet the needs of their gifted children. They also expressed loss and sadness related to educators' lack of awareness of cultural differences in gifted African American children. In general, African American students who may be gifted must rely upon an educator or administrator to notice their high aptitude and potential. This parent remarked on her overall perception of negative treatment in private and public school:

"First of all, I wanted to ensure that you know that I'm an African American to begin, and the system has not been friendly to us."

The perception of parents is that educators and the "system" consistently overlook bright, gifted, and creative African American students. The participants in this study expressed feelings of disappointment for students whose parents would not perceive the need to advocate for appropriate placement and programming due to teacher and principal apathy apathy /ap·a·thy/ (ap´ah-the) lack of feeling or emotion; indifference.apathet´ic

Lack of interest, concern, or emotion; indifference.
 or ignorance.

Many of them also had a high awareness of and strong connection to the educational system and felt that African American parents' general lack of awareness of the education bureaucracy resulted in significant neglect of potentially gifted African American children and the need for advocacy. According to one parent:
   It's not really for her, but to me
   it's a concern of mine, especially
   with children of color and the
   public school system, how the
   public school system is so difficult
   to navigate in. A parent
   who is not knowledgeable in
   the education system, they
   might be an accountant, they
   might be a medical doctor, they
   might be an engineer and not be
   able to maneuver through the
   educational system.

Ford and Webb (1994) concluded that underachievement and achievement among African American children are significantly correlated cor·re·late  
v. cor·re·lat·ed, cor·re·lat·ing, cor·re·lates
1. To put or bring into causal, complementary, parallel, or reciprocal relation.

 with parents who have frequent contact with the schools. Based on Clark's (1983) study of achievement, Ford and Webb found that parents of gifted African American children may increase motivation and achievement in their children by increasing parental involvement in their children's educational process. This study points out that the school system makes it difficult for parents of gifted African American students to be involved and that parents must often go the extra mile in order to establish a working relationship with the school.

Discussion and Implications

Qualitative inquiry Qualitative Inquiry is an bi-monthly academic journal on qualitative research methodology. It focuses on methodological issues raised by qualitative research, rather than the research's content or results. References
  • Publisher's Description
 may yield a depth of information and detailed account of experiences that are not well represented in the literature. Individual narratives revealing the lived experiences of co-researchers provide a resource for other levels of inquiry related to the original area of exploration. In this case, an investigation was conducted to understand the experiences of parents of gifted African American children. The lack of previous exploration in this area led to the need for a foundational mode of inquiry--begin at the beginning. Parents are the children's first educators, and their first-person accounts shed light on both overt Public; open; manifest.

The term overt is used in Criminal Law in reference to conduct that moves more directly toward the commission of an offense than do acts of planning and preparation that may ultimately lead to such conduct.

OVERT. Open.
 and subtle factors that affect their experiences.

From the viewpoint of these participants, education, educators, and options for gifted African American children are not adequate and are neglected in the priorities of school systems, particularly public schools in large, urban school districts. Parents did not perceive that either administrators or teachers had the special training necessary to educate gifted students of color. Parents expect teachers of special populations to have education on the characteristics and needs of their students. Apparently this is not the case in urban school districts in this country. It seems that the myth of "they're bright; they'll succeed" is at work in school when educating the gifted, particularly the gifted of color.

Parents experienced interpersonal and situational racism and perceived both as barriers to academic success for their children. Racism is an experience that negatively impacted the parents' perceptions of the school, teachers, and administrators. Research suggests that gifted African American children are positively impacted by their parents' involvement in their educational process. If the parents feel intimidated in·tim·i·date  
tr.v. in·tim·i·dat·ed, in·tim·i·dat·ing, in·tim·i·dates
1. To make timid; fill with fear.

2. To coerce or inhibit by or as if by threats.
 or ineffective in the process, they tend to become inactive in·ac·tive  
1. Not active or tending to be active.

a. Not functioning or operating; out of use: inactive machinery.

 and decrease the needed advocacy. While racism seems to intimidate in·tim·i·date  
tr.v. in·tim·i·dat·ed, in·tim·i·dat·ing, in·tim·i·dates
1. To make timid; fill with fear.

2. To coerce or inhibit by or as if by threats.
 some parents toward inaction in·ac·tion  
Lack or absence of action.


lack of action; inertia

Noun 1.
, others may prefer to move their children to other teachers or different schools. The intimidated parents are immobilized, and the proactive parents move to systems that are more receptive. As a result, the school that has inadequate programs and educators tends to remain that way.

The participants in this study were more involved with the school system and perceived their experiences as advantageous to their children, as well as a disadvantage to those parents and children who lack the internal knowledge of school system bureaucracy. The parents in this study tended to be well educated, employed, and proactive, and they concluded that the educational options for their children were inadequate. They asked questions, expected results, and gave suggestions for improvement; however, they did not typically experience satisfactory outcomes for their efforts. If the tremendous amount of effort spent on these children had these unsatisfactory results, what happens to the children whose parents don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)

"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party.
 how to do this? If it takes having a proactive, advocating parent for an African American gifted child to be identified and educated appropriately, then something is wrong with the school system's commitment to this population.

Large urban school districts, such as the one where the majority of these participants' children were enrolled, have been invested in recruiting families who value education back into the school system. It is critical that school districts take the initiative to educate their administrators and teachers about the needs of gifted African American children and the importance of the school being receptive to these children and their families. If they continue to overlook the gifted children in their classrooms and give scant scant  
adj. scant·er, scant·est
1. Barely sufficient: paid scant attention to the lecture.

2. Falling short of a specific measure: a scant cup of sugar.
 attention to the needs of these children and their families, these families will look for alternative schooling options for their children.

In addition to difficulties encountered with the school system, gifted African American children may still experience isolation due to difficulties encountering same-age peers with similar advanced interests even within the gifted cluster in school. Gifted African American children experience a double-whammy effect when they receive messages from African American peers at school or in the community that academic excellence, using Standard English Stan·dard English  
The variety of English that is generally acknowledged as the model for the speech and writing of educated speakers.

Usage Note: People who invoke the term Standard English
, and commanding a broad vocabulary are inconsistent with being African American. Why does an African American gifted child have to experience a dissonance between culture and school? Does the dissonance provide opportunities for the gifted African American child to be more flexible in disposition? In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently
, if an African American child is accused of "selling out" when pursuing academic excellence in academia, the child may feel the need to prove "investment" in African American culture African American culture or Black culture, in the United States, includes the various cultural traditions of African American communities. It is both part of, and distinct from American culture. The U.S.  by rejecting academic excellence as well as the associated features and connected individuals. This ambivalence ambivalence (ămbĭv`ələns), coexistence of two opposing drives, desires, feelings, or emotions toward the same person, object, or goal. The ambivalent person may be unaware of either of the opposing wishes.  contributes to depression, anxiety, underachievement, and low motivation in school (Grantham & Ford, 1998; Hebert, 1998; Tomlinson et al., 1997).

Important areas of future inquiry might address the connection between parent advocacy and the numbers of African American children identified as gifted. It seems imperative to understand the incidence of perceived racism on both individual and institutional levels to improve access to education for gifted African American students. If the incidence of college-educated parents is connected to the likelihood of African American children being identified as gifted, then socio-cultural issues of privilege are implicated im·pli·cate  
tr.v. im·pli·cat·ed, im·pli·cat·ing, im·pli·cates
1. To involve or connect intimately or incriminatingly: evidence that implicates others in the plot.

. Is the co-occurrence of college-educated parents and parent advocacy related to statistically low numbers of African American children identified as gifted?

These questions for research also highlight programmatic pro·gram·mat·ic  
1. Of, relating to, or having a program.

2. Following an overall plan or schedule: a step-by-step, programmatic approach to problem solving.

 needs. This research team perceives the need for more programs that meet the need for social integration of gifted African American children with their peers. It would also be important to gain the teachers' perspectives on working with gifted African American students. Training for teachers on understanding and identifying the needs of gifted African American children would improve the experience for both. In general, parents make assumptions regarding teacher competency COMPETENCY, evidence. The legal fitness or ability of a witness to be heard on the trial of a cause. This term is also applied to written or other evidence which may be legally given on such trial, as, depositions, letters, account-books, and the like.
 and expect the best until proven otherwise.

Overall, the parents participating in this study seem to experience being very much on their own when attempting to get their gifted child's needs met. It is very clear that they knew their children were gifted prior to enrolling them in school, then took the children to school with the expectation of having them appropriately educated. These parents also felt it was difficult for their gifted children to receive that education. As one parent concluded, "I have given up the fight. I am taking my children back to private school because there they have to pay attention to them." It is a powerful and sad indictment indictment (ĭndīt`mənt), in criminal law, formal written accusation naming specific persons and crimes. Persons suspected of crime may be rendered liable to trial by indictment, by presentment, or by information.  of the education system' s failure to meet the needs of the children in its care with the most potential. We can and should do something better for our children.


Alamprese, J. A., & Erlanger, W. J. (1988). No gift wasted: Effective strategies for educating highly able, disadvantaged This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims.

Please help Wikipedia by adding references. See the for details.
This article has been tagged since September 2007.
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Involving aspects of both social and psychological behavior.
 behavior. Unpublished doctoral dissertation dis·ser·ta·tion  
A lengthy, formal treatise, especially one written by a candidate for the doctoral degree at a university; a thesis.


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Of, relating to, or undergoing adolescence.

A young person who has undergone puberty but who has not reached full maturity; a teenager.
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Not satisfied or fulfilled: unmet demands. 
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Rose E. Huff huff - To compress data using a Huffman code. Various programs that use such methods have been called "HUFF" or some variant thereof.

Opposite: puff. Compare crunch, compress.
, Psy.D. has a master's degree master's degree
An academic degree conferred by a college or university upon those who complete at least one year of prescribed study beyond the bachelor's degree.

Noun 1.
 in school psychology as well as a doctorate in clinical psychology. She currently works as a school psychologist psy·chol·o·gist
A person trained and educated to perform psychological research, testing, and therapy.

. Her areas of interest include gifted children, minority children, and assessment. E-mail:

Beth M. Houskamp, Ph.D. is Professor of Graduate Psychology at Azusa Pacific University External links
  • Official website for Azusa Pacific University
  • Official APU athletics website
  • APU News and Events Information
  • Office of Undergraduate Admissions, APU
  • Office of Graduate Admissions, APU
  • Center for Adult and Professional Studies, APU
. Her clinical practice has focused on work with children and families in a number of settings, including medical centers and schools. Her research interests include gifted children, sensory sensory /sen·so·ry/ (sen´sor-e) pertaining to sensation.

1. Of or relating to the senses or sensation.

 deficits in young children, and spirituality in children and families. E-mail:

Alice V. Watkins, Ph.D. is Dean Emeritus e·mer·i·tus  
Retired but retaining an honorary title corresponding to that held immediately before retirement: a professor emeritus.

n. pl.
 of Education and Behavior Studies and Assistant for Special Projects for the Provost PROVOST. A title given to the chief of some corporations or societies. In France, this title was formerly given to some presiding judges. The word is derived from the Latin praepositus.  at Azusa Pacific University. Dr. Watkins specializes in K-12 education, special education, and educating children of minority groups. Her research publications include: The Culturally Diverse Student Population, The Developmentally Disabled: New Neighbors in the Library, and A Study of Formerly Retarded re·tard·ed  
1. Often Offensive Affected with mental retardation.

2. Occurring or developing later than desired or expected; delayed.
 Pupils Returned to Regular Classes. E-mail:

Mark Stanton, Ph.D. ABPP ABPP American Board of Professional Psychology
ABPP American Battlefield Protection Program
ABPP Agile Business Process Platform (I2 Technologies)
ABPP Activity-Based Protein Profiling
 is Professor and Chair of the Department of Graduate Psychology at Azusa Pacific University. He is president of Division 43 of the American Psychological Association The American Psychological Association (APA) is a professional organization representing psychology in the US. Description and history
The association has around 150,000 members and an annual budget of around $70m.
 and editor of The Family Psychologist, the bulletin of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Stanton's areas of expertise include marital Pertaining to the relationship of Husband and Wife; having to do with marriage.

Marital agreements are contracts that are entered into by individuals who are about to be married, are already married, or are in the process of ending a marriage.
 and family relations, life span development, and family stress theory. E-mail:

Bethany Tavegia, M.A. is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Azusa Pacific University. Her areas of interest include sensory deficits in young children, autism autism (ô`tĭzəm), developmental disability resulting from a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain. It is characterized by the abnormal development of communication skills, social skills, and reasoning. , and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), formerly called hyperkinesis or minimal brain dysfunction, a chronic, neurologically based syndrome characterized by any or all of three types of behavior: hyperactivity, distractibility, and impulsivity. . She is assistant editor of The Family Psychologist, the bulletin of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association. E-mail:

Manuscript submitted June 14, 2004.

Revision accepted September 02, 2004.
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Date:Jun 22, 2005
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