Overexcitability in Gifted Sexually Diverse Populations

Article excerpt

This study examined overexcitability in 100 gifted university students. Females scored higher on emotional and sensual overexcitability (OE), and males scored higher on intellectual, imaginational, and psychomotor OE. When examined by orientation within gender, however, nonheterosexual females scored higher than heterosexual females in psychomotor, significantly higher in intellectual, slightly higher in sensual, and slightly lower in emotional and imaginational OE. Heterosexual males scored significantly higher than nonheterosexual males in psychomotor, higher in sensual, slightly higher in imaginational, lower in intellectual, and slightly lower in emotional OE. Each population appears to be unique, and sexual diversity is one factor that seems to have a significant effect on the lives of gifted students.

Introduction to General Research Question and Background

In November 1998, Sandra Kaplan, President of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) appointed a Gifted/GLBT (G/GLBT) Task Force, and I was one of the individuals selected to be a member. The charge given us by 1999 NAGC President Sally Reis was to: (a) collect research and general information on the special needs of gifted and talented GLBT students, (b) prepare information for dissemination on the needs of GLBT gifted and talented students, (c) sponsor sessions at the NAGC annual convention, (d) share information with various NAGC constituencies through researched articles for Parenting for High Potential and other NAGC publications, and (e) determine how GLBT issues will be a continuing focus within NAGC after the task force completes its work. Unfortunately, we found little extant research on G/GLBT students.

Over the next 2 years, we found only one study by Peterson and Rischar (2000) that focused on suicidal ideation and depression of gifted gay and lesbian students, and another by Friedrichs (1997) about the educational needs of gifted gay and bisexual males. Later, three others emerged: (a) Cross, Gust-Brey, and Ball's (2002) psychological autopsy of the suicide of an academically gifted student that mentioned homosexuality and sexual identity issues as risk factors for adolescent suicide; (b) Levy and Plucker's (2003) article that described how the burden of being twice different seems to be related to depression and feelings of isolation for gifted gay and lesbian students; and (c) Jackson and Peterson's (2003) article that focused on depressive disorders in highly gifted students.

Due to the paucity of research on this unique population, I decided that if we could not find that research, I should conduct that research myself, rather than bemoan the lack thereof. I had just read the Bouchet and Falk study (2001) in Gifted Child Quarterly in which they examined the relationship among intellectual giftedness, gender, and overexcitability utilizing the Overexcitability Questionnaire II (OEQII). They found that: (a) Gifted and talented students scored higher on emotional and intellectual OE than students in the Advanced Placement or students in the standard categories, and (b) overall, females scored higher on emotional and sensual OE and males scored higher on intellectual, imaginational, and psychomotor OE.

They concluded that the differences found between males and females seem to result from gender role socialization. I wondered about whether or not their results would have differed if the sexual orientation of the participants had been assessed. I decided to find out, and thus began my effort to replicate this study, but with the additional criteria of asking for the participants' sexual orientation. First, however, I thought it would be wise to learn more about overexcitability and about possible indicators of differences between heterosexual and nonheterosexual populations.

Review of Literature

Dabrowski (1964), a Polish psychiatrist and psychologist, developed a theory of positive disintegration. …