According to empirical literature, low self-esteem is highly correlated to behavioural and emotional problems in gifted children and adolescents. Since self-esteem is an indicator of social and emotional adjustment, it would be interesting to better understand the meaning of this construct, as it is evaluated explicitly with the use of self-report questionnaires. In order to explore the psychological processes underlying the explicit self-esteem, we studied the relation of a self-report questionnaire and an indirect measure of self and interpersonal perception using the Rorschach Comprehensive System (CS).
The participants were 93 children, aged between 9 and 15 years old, with an IQ≥130. They were attending regular classes (no curriculum difference). Self-esteem was evaluated using the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory (SEI). We used the Rorschach CS measures of self and interpersonal perception.
The results showed no significant correlation between self-esteem and high IQ. A negative correlation between self-esteem evaluated on the SEI and the Rorschach Vista responses was found, which reflected self-critical introspection and painful self-appraisal. Then a positive correlation was observed between self-esteem and reflection answers on the Rorschach (Fr+rF>0), which are related to narcissistic-like features of personality. We also found a positive correlation between self-esteem and the Rorschach egocentricity index (EGO), which provides an estimate of self-concern. Finally, the strongest correlation was found between self-esteem and the dominance of good over poor human representations (GHR>PHR), which reveals effective interpersonal behaviour.
The psychological processes which seem to be related to low self-esteem in gifted children and adolescents are maladaptive interpersonal behaviours, painful experience of introspection focusing on perceived negative aspects of the self, absence of narcissistic-like features of the personality and low self-concern. These findings may suggest that intervention planning with gifted children and adolescents with low self-esteem should emphasize the accurate interpretation of interpersonal data, develop social skills and restructure negative self-thoughts.