Gifted and Non-Gifted Lebanese Adolescents: Gender Differences in Self-Concept, Self-Esteem and Depression

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ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study was to investigate gender differences in self-concept, self-esteem, and depression among gifted (n=68) and non-gifted (n=174) adolescents in Lebanon. Participants were 242 adolescents (110 males and 132 females), with a mean age of 13.9 years. Four measures were used: DISCOVER assessment, Piers-Harris 2 self-concept scale, Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale (RSE), and Beck's Depression Inventory (BDI). The 2-way MANOVAs yielded significant main effects for gender and student type (gifted vs. non-gifted). Further univariate analyses showed that participants had mostly average levels of global self-concept and self-esteem, and low levels of depressive symptoms. Also, gifted participants had significantly higher scores on RSE, global self-concept, and academic self-concept. Males had significantly higher scores on Physical Image, Happiness and Satisfaction, and Freedom from Anxiety subscales, whereas girls had significantly higher scores on BDI. Future research is needed on larger samples of Lebanese youth to confirm these results.

INTRODUCTION

Adolescence has been referred to as the "problem years" (Meredith, 2009), an age of storm and stress, characterized by a drop in self-concept, self-esteem, and social adjustment, particularly in girls (Harter, 2006). During this transitional stage of development, adolescents encounter many psychological, social, and emotional conflicts, thereby making this period of life a particularly challenging time for individuals and their families (Vialle, Heaven, & Ciarrochi, 2007). But not all research supports this bleak portrayal of youth. In one study on a large sample from ten industrialized countries including Italy, Japan, and the U.S., the results revealed that most adolescents had a positive self-image, were optimistic and confident about their future, and showed positive feelings towards their families (Offer, Ostrov, Howard, & Atkinson, 1988).

With respect to the psycho-social adjustment of gifted adolescents, research has yielded mixed results. In some studies, giftedness was found to constitute an additional burden on the adolescents in their quest for identity, thus making this period more difficult for young individuals (Peterson, 2006), whereas in others, the findings indicated that gifted adolescents had positive self-concepts (Jiannong, Ying, & Xingli, 2008; Reis & Renzulli, 2004) and lived lives comparable to their peers with no more depressive symptoms than other, non-gifted youth (Shaunessy, Suido, Hardesty, & Shaffer, 2006).

In Lebanon, a small country in the Middle East, little research has been conducted on both the period of adolescence (Ayyash-Abdo, 2007) or on gifted learners (Sarouphim, 2009). The country lacks a formal system of education for the gifted, as the emphasis in the national school curriculum remains on mainstream education (Sarouphim, 2010). Also, awareness of the importance of the transitional period of adolescence is still at a preliminary stage among the Lebanese community (Ayyash-Abdo, 2007).

The purpose of this study was to investigate gender differences in self-concept, self-esteem and depression among gifted and non-gifted adolescents in Lebanon. Two questions have guided this study: 1) what are the levels of self-concept, self-esteem, and depression among gifted and non-gifted adolescents in Lebanon? And 2) Do gender differences exist in the self-concept, self-esteem, and depression of gifted and non-gifted adolescents in Lebanon?

Contextual Background

At 10,452 square-kilometers, Lebanon is one of the smallest countries in the Middle East, about the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut. Adolescence in Lebanon is defined as a "period of physiological change, with no initiation ceremonies or rites to mark the passage" (Ayyash-Abdo, 2007, p. 583). This period begins, essentially, when puberty starts, but there are no specific boundaries with regards to when it ends and adulthood begins. …