[Self-esteem, self-centeredness and social-emotional adjustment of gifted children and adolescents].Encephale. 2009 Oct; 35(5):417-22.E
There is an ongoing debate of how giftedness affects social-emotional adjustment. Self-esteem may be an indicator of social-emotional adjustment but insufficient in its explanatory capacity, especially high self-esteem which tends to produce opposite responses in regards to adjustment. A distinction between defensive and genuine high self-esteem could account for these results. In order to understand how self-esteem operates on social-emotional adjustment, it should be associated with other measurements relating to self-concern. In the Rorschach comprehensive system (CS), egocentricity index measures self-centeredness, which can be defined as the balance between self-concern and concern for others. High self-concern is associated with a neglect of the others. Operationalized here, as the interaction of high self-esteem and excessive self-concern, defensive high self-esteem should predict maladaptive outcomes.
Participants were aged from 9 to 15 years old, with an IQ greater or equal to 130 on the WISC-III. They were attending regular classes and were not in counseling or psychotherapy. Children and adolescents were administrated the Rorschach CS and the Coopersmith self-esteem inventory. Parents completed the child behaviour checklist (CBCL) which assesses general psychopathology.
Seventy-eight subjects' data satisfy the conditions of validity of the instruments used. Gifted boys present more behavior and emotional problems than gifted girls in this study. Self-esteem predicts social-emotional adjustment. There is an interaction between self-esteem and self-concern on psychopathology only for high values of self-esteem. Gifted with high self-esteem associated with high self-concern are more vulnerable to maladjustment than high self-esteem associated with low self-concern. Gifted children and adolescents with low self-esteem experience more problems anyhow.
These findings reinforce the view that the gifted are a diverse group in terms of social-emotional adjustment and self-esteem. Self-esteem operates as a valuable resource for the social-emotional adjustment of gifted children and adolescents but only under some conditions. Low self-esteem gifted seem to be at more risk of maladjustment, but that does not mean any causal relationship. Gifted children and adolescents with high self-esteem can be considered as a heterogeneous category. High self-esteem associated to excessive self-concern has less beneficial effects on adjustment than high self-esteem associated to low self-concern.