Friendship is very important and there are many quotes about how precious friendships are; however, friendships are hard to attain, difficult to maintain and are easily lost. True friendships endure and are priceless.
Emeritus professor Miraca Gross, founder of the Gifted Education Research, Resource and Information Centre (GERRIC) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), was particularly interested in the social and emotional lives of gifted youth and conducted significant amounts of research into these aspects. She identified that gifted youth often have heightened concepts of friendship with associated higher expectations of friends than do the general population.
Gross identified the added stage of friendship among the gifted that she referred to as the 'Sure Shelter' – meaning that individuals feel safe and sheltered (irrespective of any 'storms' that might occur) within a special relationship. Fidelity and trust within a friendship are very important to the gifted and something they treasure.
The psychologist, Abraham Maslow is famous for the Hierarchy of Needs that he developed. Within this hierarchy is a sense of belonging – seen as an important 'step' towards self-actualisation – or realizing one's potential. An important task of adolescence is developing a positive self-concept. Both belonging and self-concept depend upon developing positive relationships with others.
While proximity is important, so are interests and values when establishing a friendship. Many gifted students in general ability settings gravitate towards older people. At primary school, they often talked to the teacher during breaks. Later, extracurricular activities may have allowed access to older students. This pattern of socialization isn't necessarily required when a selective school environment groups students based upon their ability and academic interest.
School has been described (by a gifted youth) as 'chronological apartheid', a reference to the segregation according to chronological age that often occurs in schools. Adults form relationships based upon ability, interests, values and personality characteristics. So it is with high ability youth; they select relationships based upon these same factors. Proximity and ability grouping make it easier to identify possible friends.
Students often feel that they have found their 'tribe' – or 'like minds' – when they have an opportunity to interact with others who share their abilities, interests, and values. Friendships that have not been found previously may now be located. A friendship that is a 'Sure Shelter' may now be found and treasured as a special relationship.