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Gifted Lives: What Happens when Gifted Children Grow Up [Paperback]

Joan Freeman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Sep 2010 0415470099 978-0415470094

This book reveals the dramatic stories of twenty outstandingly gifted people as they grew from early promise to maturity in Britain. Recorded over the last thirty-five years by award-winning psychologist, Joan Freeman, these fascinating accounts reveal the frustrations and triumphs of her participants, and investigates why some fell by the wayside whilst others reached fame and fortune.

These exceptional people possess a range of intellectual, social and emotional gifts in fields such as mathematics, the arts, music and spirituality. Through their particular abilities, they were often confronted with extra emotional challenges, such as over-anxious and pushy parents, teacher put-downs, social trip-wires, boredom and bullying in school and conflicting life choices. Their stories illustrate how seemingly innocuous events could have devastating life-long consequences, and confront the reader with intriguing questions such as: Does having a brilliant mind help when you are ethnically different or suffering serious depression? How does a world-class pianist cope when repetitive strain injury strikes, or a young financier when he hits his first million? What is the emotional impact of grade-skipping?

Joan Freeman’s insights into the twists and turns of these lives are fascinating and deeply moving. She shows us that while fate has a part to play, so does a personal outlook which can see and grab a fleeting chance, overcome great odds, and put in the necessary hard work to lift childhood prodigy to greatness. Readers will identify with many of the intriguing aspects of these people’s lives, and perhaps learn something about themselves too.

Frequently Bought Together

Gifted Lives: What Happens when Gifted Children Grow Up + The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius(tm) + Living with Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults
Price For All Three: £39.33

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Product details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (15 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415470099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415470094
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 131,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Prof Joan Freeman PhD is an international expert in gifts and talent. For this, she won the British Psychological Society's Lifetime Achievement Award as well as a Fellowship. She founded the European Council for High Ability (ECHA) and is Visiting Professor at Middlesex University, London. She has published 17 books for scholars and parents as well as hundreds of academic and non-academic publications. Scientific evidence is vital in all her publications. She is often in the media. Joan has a private practice in central London for highly able children. For more details, see

Product Description


"Again and again in this book, the stories surprise and confound. No one reading this book could possibly come away with simple prejudices unchallenged. ... These true stories contain lessons for us all about what it is to have, and respond to, special qualities." – John Stoboda, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Keele University, in The Psychologist

"Freeman’s writing throughout is disciplined and carefully objective, without sacrificing any narrative power. ... Gifted Lives—with its many twists and turns—is captivating, inspiring, and educating. I want to recommend the book to parents and educators everywhere. It seems to me it will be easy to find a nugget of information that you can utilize almost immediately." - Joseph Cardillo, Psychology Today

"At last, an honest picture of what really happens to the gifted. Joan Freeman understands the psychology of having gifted abilities and its challenges, and has brought a breath of fresh air to this area of human development. I learned a lot and highly recommend it." - Lewis Wolpert CBE, FRS, FRSL, Emeritus Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine, University College London, UK

 "A sensitive, probing and revealing analysis of the super-bright from childhood to middle-age by Britain's leading analyst of gifted children."   - Brenda Maddox, biographer and winner of the Los Angeles Times Biography Award, the Silver PEN Award, the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, and the Whitbread Biography Prize.

"Joan Freeman has written engaging and often surprising portraits of 20 of the 210 gifted children she has followed into adulthood. This book will inform not only parents, teachers, and scholars of giftedness but all those interested in the unpredictable course of individual lives." - Ellen Winner, Professor and Chair,  Department of Psychology, Boston College USA  & Author of Gifted Children: Myths and Realities

About the Author

Professor Joan Freeman, PhD, is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, which has also honoured her with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work with the gifted and talented. She is Founding President of the European Council for High Ability. She has published 14 books, 2 government reports, many scholarly papers, and is invited to lecture around the world. She has a private psychology practice in London. (

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read 4 April 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I came by this book by chance and read it purely as human interest stories. I think if you're looking for a handbook on how to raise gifted children, or a scientific psychological report you would be very much disappointed. The book is written in a style that is wrought with the author's emotions and personal interpretations or judgements of these children and their families.

The book tells the stories of many gifted children, their lives growing up and what's happening with them as adults. Few has reached the kind of success that was expected of them. The main idea that seems to come across is that the label of giftedness is almost like a burden to both parents and children which make growing up more complicated. Never-ending higher expectations, over-parenting, unfitting educational environment and emotional disturbances seem to be the obstacles of the proper development of gifts. The author come across blaming a lot of the problems on the parents. There is also the sense that while many parents focused on intellectual development, few paid attention to the emotional development of gifted children.

I'm no expert in research on gifted children - I read this book with pure interest and gained some insight into my own life (not gifted but academically high achieving which seems to share some similar experiences with children labelled as gifted). I very much enjoyed it but I do think it's quite a subjective account so I would suggest reading it bearing that in mind to avoid stereotyping all gifted children based on this account.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A reality check for parents 11 Feb 2012
By Nimrod
We have a young boy in a pushy Private London School. We read Joan Freeman's book with great interest.
Every parent thinks that their child might be gifted.
Gifted Lives helped us see exactly where our child fared within his contemporaries. It gave us the tools to know when to push him and also when not to.
We think that this book is helping us bring up a child that will create his own "gifted life".
Joan Freeman has given us insight into the reality of education, gifted children and how to be a fair parent and create a happy balanced and possibly a gifted child.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I came across Joan Freeman in 2005 through the Channel 4 TV series in the UK "Child Genius" which revealed a fascinating insight into a group of young gifted children. This book was a culmination of her research over a 35yr plus period which provided a more detailed look at 20 gifted individuals from child prodigy to adulthood. Freeman had a huge array of cases to choose from (> 200) and had clearly selected her subjects based on specific themes ie. the child genius who developed immense empathetic skills, the child who became hugely successful despite humble beginnings etc.
I thought this was a good way to organise the book and it helped me to engage in the narrative of each person. I found some stories more interesting than others but that depended on how I related to them. My favourite chapter was: Musical Chairs - which compared 2 child prodigies at a music school aged 11 - one of whom went on to carve a very successful career in music and the other sadly unable to fulfill her early potential and eventually spent periods of her adult life on welfare benefit.
This book should not be regarded as an instruction manual on how to raised a gifted child and I am sure this was not Freeman's intention. Some managed to overcome early disadvantages and obstacles to become very successful in their careers whilst the majority led more humble lives. In her studies, she did not find an increased prevalence of mental illness in her cohort although we often encounter stereotypical stories perpetuated about prodigies such as Bobby Fischer.
Freeman pointed out there was no magic formula for the gifted child to achieve success into adulthood. What I managed to distil from her book were:
Internal factors:
1. the ability to focus on their chosen field
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful insight into the lives of the gifted 10 Feb 2012
By lL.M
A very interesting and enjoyable read for anyone but an absolute must for parents of gifted children and their teachers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Gifted lives shows us the result of Freemans lifelong work on giftedness. Her research results make painfully clear that, however each parent and each educator does the best under different circumstances (and has loving intentions), we often do not realise the consequences of our educating interventions on the long run. Educators tent to make decisions on what they think as long term. They think over the consequences of their interventions on a period of two, three, maybe five years ahead. Gifted lives gives us the rare opportunity to review some decision in retrospective. It shows that some choices can work out very well on short term but can have massive consequences on the long run.
Freemans research also shows that `being normal' or better, having the opportunity to exploit gifts and talent without the feeling of being the odd exception, is the utmost important condition to give gifted children the chance to grow up as a `whole' person. It learns them not only how to succeed, but also how to cope with failure and disappointment in life. Freemans work can be seen as a deep level learning source for parents and teachers! A must have in order the get a good understanding that giftedness and talent can't flourish with only sunshine.
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