Professor Joan Freeman has advice for parents of child geniuses: for their benefit, let them grow up in their own time

Children who are accelerated beyond their year group at school are likely to experience social problems later on in life, according to the psychologist Joan Freeman.

Professor Freeman has spent more than 30 years researching gifted children, and Channel 4 has just been highlighting her work. She was also recently given a lifetime achievement award by the British Psychological Society.

She believes that, unless there is no other option, children should not be moved up beyond their age peers. “It causes social problems which are not always apparent in childhood but which can emerge in adulthood,” she tells the JC. “People often feel they have lost precious childhood years when they could have developed themselves in other ways, instead of just studying in a relatively narrow school area.

“The trouble is that once the move to accelerate has been made, it is extremely difficult to go back.” Moving a child up a class at five may appear harmless, but the effects may be seen at 16.

A visiting professor at Middlesex University, London, Professor Freeman has been researching gifted children since 1974.

Some of her findings were shown on last week’s Channel 4 documentary Child Genius, the first of a two-part series which tracks the lives of ten gifted children. She advises the government on education and claims to be the first witness to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education and Employment.

    Last updated: 4:30pm, May 13 2008