Having students who are above average academically skip grades is an easy way to meet the academic needs of "gifts and talented" students. But there have been long standing fears that it is psychologically problematic for smart kids to put them in the same classes as older, less exceptional kids. All of the empirical evidence shows that this concern is unfounded.
Academic acceleration of intellectually precocious youth is believed to harm overall psychological well-being even though short-term studies do not support this belief.
Here we examine the long-term effects. Study 1 involves three cohorts identified before age 13, then longitudinally tracked for over 35 years: Cohort 1 gifted (top 1% in ability, identified 1972–1974, N = 1,020), Cohort 2 highly gifted (top 0.5% in ability, identified 1976–1979, N = 396), and Cohort 3 profoundly gifted (top 0.01% in ability, identified 1980–1983, N = 220). Two forms of educational acceleration were examined: (a) age at high school graduation and (b) quantity of advanced learning opportunities pursued prior to high school graduation. Participants were evaluated at age 50 on several well-known indicators of psychological well-being. Amount of acceleration did not covary with psychological well-being.
Study 2, a constructive replication of Study 1, used a different high-potential sample—elite science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduate students (N = 478) identified in 1992. Their educational histories were assessed at age 25 and they were followed up at age 50 using the same psychological assessments. Again, the amount of educational acceleration did not covary with psychological well-being.
Further, the psychological well-being of participants in both studies was above the average of national probability samples. Concerns about long-term social/emotional effects of acceleration for high-potential students appear to be unwarranted, as has been demonstrated for short-term effects.
Bernstein, B. O., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P., "Academic acceleration in gifted youth and fruitless concerns regarding psychological well-being: A 35-year longitudinal study." Journal of Educational Psychology. (2020) Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000500