Self-Actualization and Other Personality Dimensions as Predictors of Mental Health of Intellectually Gifted Students
Pufal-Struzik, Irena, Roeper Review
The problems under consideration are connected with the mechanisms of mental health. This article focuses on the following issues: the level of self-knowledge, control, and self-control, as well as a tendency to be intellectually creative in thinking and acting. The level of self-actualization is considered to be an indicator of contentment and satisfaction in young people (Gorniewicz, Rubacha, Zuchowski, 1992).
Many contemporary theories in social psychology present and justify a new psychological picture of man which no longer represents the individual as the object of influence, or situation, or instinctive needs. Instead, they contain more and more attributes of self-actualization dependent on the efficacy of the subjective set of beliefs or sensations accumulated in personal experience.
Locus of control is one attribute connected with adjustment and mental health of an individual (Harrow, Ferrante, 1969; Hersch, Scheibe, 1967; Rotter, 1966). People make an effort to exert influence on the surrounding reality and to comprehend it and themselves. This ability is believed to have a significant regulatory function in intra and interpsychic relations as well as in effective influence on the course of events or in shaping the surroundings (Scigala, 1992). However, it is difficult to assume in every case that the individual is capable of fully understanding his surrounding and himself.
The functioning of a person is also determined by the level and adequacy of his or her self-knowledge (Kozielecki, 1980). A high self-esteem can be a driving force for an individual and the basis for an ability to formulate distant aims and the subsequent realization of one's developmental capacities. It may also be indicative of the psychic maturity of a person and his or her greater efficiency (Moszynski, 1982; Obuchowski, 1982).
One of the indicators of good self-esteem of a person is the feeling of self-actualization, understood as the effect of satisfying the highest need in the hierarchy of human needs (Maslow, 1990). Indeed, many consider self-actualization as a natural developmental tendency (Gorniewicz and Rubacha, 1993). By the same token, achieving maturity by youth is connected with a number of difficulties, particularly those concerning the structure of "I". Coping with these problems often contributes to aggression and anxiety which are a response to the sensation of menace, and a necessary signal which triggers the defence mechanisms of personality (May, 1950).
The study described here is an attempt to determine selected elements of psychic maturity (mental health) of intellectually gifted young people who surpass their peers in scholastic achievements, and assimilate and operate with a greater amount of information due to a greater absorptive power of the mind (Borzym, 1979).
This study sought relations between selected dimensions of personality and the feeling of satisfaction from realization of one's potentials measured by the level of self-actualization. The empirical study was used for the verification of the following hypotheses:
* Highly gifted students achieve a higher level of self-actualization than the control group (H1).
* A higher level of anxiety as the permanent personality feature is characteristic of highly gifted students who have a sense of self-actualization (H2).
* Gifted students understand and control better their own actions and effects due to internal locus of control (H3).
* Gifted students who have a strong sense of self-actualization achieve high results in the field of creative intellectual attitudes (H4).
* The investigated gifted students who have a sense of self-actualization have a higher level of self-acceptance (H5).
* A strong need for intellectual stimulation is characteristic of gifted students who have a sense of self-actualization (H6).
The subjects were 140 young people of both sexes, ages 16-17, from a high school in a large city in Poland. Sixty-five students (42 males and 23 females) were identified as intellectually gifted based on academic competitions. Competitions of this kind are organized for high school students every year by educators who select a group of gifted young people based on their achievement in subjects like biology, history, foreign languages, and mathematics. The selected gifted students were winners of the third highest stage of the school subjects competitions.
Seventy-five average ability students (45 males and 30 females) constituted the control group. They did not have significant achievement in school subjects and they never participated in the school competitions. The study was carried out in secondary schools in the years 1995 and 1996.
Selected personality dimensions were measured on a variety of instruments. Rubacha's Short Self-realization Questionnaire (SSQ) (Gomiewicz and Rubacha, 1993) was used to measure the self-actualization level. It was developed on the basis of a conception of self-actualization proposed by Maslow. The basis for the construction of the particular items in the test was a pool of features characteristic of individuals who believe in their life and their latent potential. The investigated students had a choice of three replies to each of 30 questions: P (truth),? (I don't know), F (false). The sum of points awarded to a person for replies concordant with the key were transformed to T scores. Results of the test were supplemented with information about social determinants and the process of self-actualization collected through interviews. The interview included questions regarding the level of their development, life ambitions, the sense of their own value, acceptance of oneself and the world, as well as factors which restrict a full development.
Anxiety was measured with The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) (in the Polish version: The State and Dimensions of Anxiety Inventory SDAI Wrzesniewski and Sosnowski, 1987). The test consists of 40 items which ask the person to indicate how often they experience certain feelings. Frequency is indicated as: "hardly ever", "seldom", "often" or "almost always". Raw scores are converted to T scores.
Locus of control was assessed with the (Questionnaire for Testing Control QTC), developed by Krasowicz, Kurzyp-Wojnarska (1990). The questionnaire measures a generalized sense of control in young people in school (and in peer group, and in relations with parents and random situations). Each of these areas is represented in the questionnaire by 10 items. In each question one reply represents the internal locus of control, and the other the external locus of control. Questions concerning positive events constitute a scale of successes (S), and those which concern negative events constitute the scale of failures (P). The indices of questionnaire reliability are satisfactory and close to coefficients for other tests of locus of control.
The level of creative intellectual attitudes was determined in gifted young people by the test (HDYT) (How do you think) developed by Davis (1975). This test investigates attitudes, motivations, interests, values, and other personality traits which - together with biographical experience - predispose creative thinking and behavior. The test contains 6 scales:
1. Energy and originality.
2. Creative interests and activities.
3. Creative writing, fondness of variety.
4. Faith in oneself and a sense of humor.
5. Independence, flexibility, faith in the existence of parapsychological phenomena.
6. Stimulation seeking, taking risks and playfulness.
The test contains 102 items which ask students to either indicate the frequency of the behavior, or their approval of the behavior. Each scale is calculated separately, using scores from 1 to 5, depending on the positive or negative relation to creativity in particular answers. For this study, only the results of scales: 2, 3 and 4 were used.
The level of self-acceptance was measured with the Self-Acceptance Questionnnaire developed by Karylowski (1975). It is designed to contrast real and ideal self. In the first part of the questionnaire, the students mark features which they value, and in the second part of the questionnaire they assess on the 7-degree scale the degree to which they have a given feature.
The need for intellectual stimulation was measured with Zuckerman's Scale of Sensation Seeking (SSS) (1966) in the Polish adaptation (Oleszkiewicz - Zsurzs 1982). It contains four subscales: Thrill and adventure - seeking (TAS); Experience seeking (ES); Disinhibition DIS; and Boredom susceptibility BS. In the Polish adaptation and standardization, a question scale was added for the measurement of needed - intellectual stimulation (I). The questionnaire contains 68 items given in two versions A and B, from which the student chooses the one which better suits his or her predilections or feelings.
To verify the hypotheses put forward, an analysis of the structure of independent variables in four groups of young people was made. The previous division of the subjects into groups 1 and 2 was supplemented with groups 3 and 4. In group 3 were gifted students who had high scores of self-actualization SSQ (T scores above 70). In group 4 were the remaining subjects from groups 1 and 2 who indicated average or low self-actualization (5-6 standard ten) or low scores (1-4 standard ten) in the SSQ test.
The observed differences between groups were verified by the conformity test [chi square] (Chi - Square - Goodness of Fit - Statistics). In cases of significant differences between the investigated groups the value of relation (V Cramer) was determined. Respective statistics are illustrated in Table 1.
SELECTED EMPIRICAL STATISTICS
Group1 Group2 Group3 Group4 SSQ STAI Mean 49.215 42.640 45.869 46.000 Median 50 42 46 46 Mode 50 42 47 40 Standard deviation 6.079 6.274 4.299 5.802 Standard error 0.754 0.725 0.550 0.653 Range 32 36 24 33 Lower quartile 45 40 42.5 42 Upper quartile 54 46 48 49 H1 H2 Group1 Group2 Group3 Group4 [chi square] = [chi square] = 21.845 0.642 p<0.001 p<0.42 Group1 Group2 Group3 Group4 QTC HDYT Mean 24.615 23.293 i23.541 104.5 Median 24 23 120 103.5 Mode 23 23 120 99 Standard deviation 4.454 4.305 16.144 6.137 Standard error 0.552 0.497 2.067 3.069 Range 22 20 80 13 Lower quartile 21 20 112 99.25 Upper quartile 28 26 136 110.75 H3 H4 Group1 Group2 Group3 Group4 [chi square] = [chi square] = 3.796 5.37 p<0.14 p<0.06 Group3 Group4 Group3 Group4 SSS SA Mean 73.098 69.367 5.213 4.506 Median 74 70 6 5 Mode 74 70 6 6 Standard deviation 12.795 13.264 1.55 1.663 Standard error 1.638 1.492 0.199 0.187 Range 63 76 5 6 Lower quartile 62.5 64 4 3 Upper quartile 82.5 77 6 6 H5 H6 Group3 Group4 Group3 Group4 [chi square] = [chi square] = 6.873 7.335 p<0.03 p<0.05
Group1 N=65; Group2 N=75; Group3 N=61; Group4 N=79;
The results of the study confirm the correctness of hypotheses H1, H5, and H6. However, assumptions in hypotheses H2, H3, and H4 proved to be incorrect. Before the results of the statistical analysis of relations between skills, self-realization, and personality features of students are given (see Table 1), we shall summarize the students' opinions concerning the process of self-actualization. Young people understand the process of self-actualization as an independent achievement (realization) of assumed plans, aims, desires, and dreams concerning various spheres of activity, which leads to the feeling of satisfaction.
The interviews revealed that students identified 3 social factors that favor self - actualization. These are good and friendly relations between parents and children, learning in school of one's conscious choice, possibility of realization of interests and desires at home and at school. In addition, students identified steadfast work on one's own development (high requirements, deep self-knowledge, self-determination, and perseverance), as important. Gifted students emphasize more often that they have strong motivation for creative change of themselves toward being more open to the needs for others, and for developing greater efficiency their actions. Young people stated that lack of time, lack of funds for cognitive activity outside school, and some traits of a fully mature personality were obstacles for them in complete self-actualization.
The results of statistical analysis of test data follows:
Statistical analysis indicated that gifted students (group 1) have a stronger level of self-actualization than average students (group 2). There is no significant difference in anxiety levels between gifted students with high strong self-actualization and gifted and average students with moderate or low levels of self-actualization. Gifted students are not different from the control group in measures regarding the locus of control and most frequently have either an external or unstable locus of control.
The relation between gifted students' self-actualization and their intellectual attitudes measured by scales 2, 3, 4 of the HDYT test approaches the limit of significance (V = .29, p. = .06) and should be interpreted with a great caution. There is a significant relation between between gifted students' self-actualization (SSQ test) and the level of self-acceptance S.A. (V = .22). Gifted students who realize themselves more intensively (group 3) achieve a higher level of self-acceptance.
A strong demand for intellectual stimulation occurs significantly more often in young people in group 3 than in those in group 4 (V = .22). Gifted young people with average self-actualization scores (group 1) in comparison with the other young people (group 2) do not have a higher demand for intellectual stimulation. There are visible differences between average (group I mean score = 5.123, st. deviation = 1.615; group 2 mean score = 4.547, st. deviation = 1.638), but the relation is not significant (chi square = 6.1640, p. = .06). Results suggested a relationship between self - actualization and the need for intellectual stimulation. Students scoring higher in self - actualization reported a greater need for in intellectual stimulation. However, the differences between groups is not significant.
The results of the study show that gifted young people have a higher sense of realization of inherent potentials than less gifted peers (cf. Gorniewicz, Rubacha, Zuchowski, 1992, p. 102). It is possible to presume that we are dealing with a double-sided process because intensive cognitive activity in a selected area, conditioned by actual abilities, leads to successes, and these - in turn - increase the sense of self-actualization.
The subjects in this study stressed that independence and efficiency play an important role in the process of self-actualization, which is possible thanks to continuous work on one's own weaknesses and to a favourable family and school environment. This emphasis on the importance of profound self-knowledge is also stressed by Borzym (1979, p. 101).
Solow (1995, p. 142) writes about the importance of the climate of understanding in the gifted child's family. Yewchuk and Schlosser (1995) recognize the following factors as particularly significant for the development of abilities: fulfilment of the child's needs by the parents, parental acceptance and support of the child; in brief, their encouragement of his/her development (creation of opportunities for development and achievement of successes).
Gifted young people think that they are able to assess well the "strong" and "weak" traits of their personality and that they can take responsibility for themselves and for the effects of their actions. However, the results (QTC) do not confirm those opinions. Results of the QTC suggest there are no differences in locus of control between the gifted and control group. The internal locus of control proved to be a characteristic of those students who are gifted and also yield high scores on the measures of self-actualization.
The majority of the subjects in all groups report often experiencing fear (particularly social fears) characteristic of the adolescent perception of the world. In this respect no significant differences were found between gifted self-actualizing students and their peers. The role of emotional factors such as anxiety in the development of abilities is not fully investigated (see also Horovitz, 1987).
Authors do not have unequivocal opinions about self-assessment and self-acceptance in gifted young people. Ross and Parker (1980) observed a discrepancy between the assessment of oneself based on scholastic achievements and the assessment based on social roles. In turn, Colangelo and Pfleger (1978) believe that highly gifted students have a more positive picture of themselves. Different relations were observed by Kline and Short (1991) in their study. They found that self-esteem of gifted adolescent females was significantly lower throughout the whole period of learning in comparison with that of peers (cf. Whitmore, 1980). In our study, gifted young people distinguished themselves from among peers by a higher level of self - acceptance.
As far as the creative intellectual attitudes are concerned, only some gifted young people present themselves significantly more favourably in comparison with their peers; they have more extensive interests, a tendency towards creative thinking and creative actions (cf. Davis, 1975). Perhaps the financial difficulties signalled by students are an obstacle for the development of extra-school interests and are the cause of a significant limitation of the sphere of their creative activity to rather one-directional development within a selected discipline. Results of the measure for need for intellectual stimulation suggest that gifted students who achieve self-actualization through academic success may block other intellectual needs (e.q. the need for novelty, discovery, deep reflection, and discussion on events).
The results of the study offer a few suggestions for parents and teachers who work with gifted students:
* This group of young people should be taken particular care of so that their development could be versatile and not limited first of all to the narrowly understood intellectual sphere (knowledge of a selected school subject).
* Provide opportunities to carry to discuss problems with parents and teachers. An atmosphere of acceptance, security, freedom of speaking about their problems to trustworthy persons should characterize such opportunities.
* Polish youth should be provided with more free, attractive extra-lesson activities (in school or in housing estates), where they would have opportunity for a fuller realization of their predispositions and interests.
* It is necessary that educators concentrate more intensively on the development of children's internal locus of control so that students will assume greater responsibility for their behaviours.
Borzym, I. (1979). Uczniowie zdolni [Gifted students]. Warszawa: Polish Scientific Publishers.
Colangelo, N., Pfleger, L. R. (1978). Academic self - concept of gifted high school students. Roeper Review 1, 10 - 11.
Davis, G. A. (1975). In frumious pursuit of the creative person. Journal of Creative Behaviour. 9 (2), 75 - 87.
Gallagher, J. (1990). Editorial: The public and professional perception of the emotional status of gifted children. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 13,202 - 211.
Gorniewicz, J., Rubacha, K., Zuchowski, J. (1992). Samorealizacja [m.sup.3] odziezy szkolnej. Kon-cepcja i wyniki badan empirycznych [Self - realisation of young people. Conception and results of research]. Torun: Miko_aj Kopernik University.
Gorniewicz, J., Rubacha, K. (1993). Samorealizacja a uzdolnienia tworcze [m.sup.3]odziezy [Self- realization and creative abilities of young people]. Torun: [Miko.sup.3]aj Kopernik University.
Harrow, M., Ferrante, A. (1969). Locus of control in psychiatric patients. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 31,609 - 613.
Hersch, P. D., Scheibe, K. E. (1967). Reliability and validity of internal - external control as a personality dimensions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 33,582 - 589.
Horowitz, F. D. (1987). A developmental view of giftedness. Gifted Child Quarterly, 31, 165 - 168.
Karylowski, J. (1990). Z badan nad mechanizmami ustosunkowan interpersonalnych [Studies of mechanisms of positive social orientation]. Warszawa: Ossolineum.
Kitano, M. K. (1990). Intellectual abilities and psychological intensities in young children: Implications for the gifted. Roeper Review, 13, 5 - 10.
Kline, B., Short, E. (1991). Changes in emotional resilience: Gifted adolescent females. Roeper Review. 13, 118 - 121.
Kofta, M. (1979). Samokontrola a emocje. [Self- control and emotions]. Warszawa: Polish Scientific Publishers.
Kozielecki, J. (1980). Adekwamosc samowiedzy: Fakty i mistyfikacje. [Adequcy of self - knowledge: Facts and mystifications]. Educational Psychology, 3,301 - 316.
Krasowicz, G., Kurzyp - Wojnarska, A. (1990). Kwestionariusz do badania poczucia kontroli [Questionnaire for testing control]. Warszawa: Polish Psychological Society.
Lovecky, D. V. (1992). Exploring social and emotional aspects of giftedness in children. Roeper Review, 15, 18 - 25.
Maslow, A. (1990). Motywacja a osobowoaeae [Motivation and personality]. Warszawa: PAX Publishers.
May, R. (150). The meaning of anxiety. New York: Ronald Press.
Mendaglio, S. (1995). Sensitivity among gifted persons: A multi-faceted perspective. Roeper Review. 17, 169 - 172.
Moszynski, P. (1982). Z badan nad czynnikami [warunkuj.sup.1]cymi [osi.sup.1]gniecie [dojrza.sup.3]osci psychicznej [Introductory studies of factors determining psychical maturation]. In K. Obuchowski, W. J. Paluchowski (Eds.). Efektywnosc a osobowosc [Efficiency and personality J. (pp. 116 - 133). [Wroc.sup.3]aw: Ossolineum.
Obuchowski, K. (1982). Badania osobowosci efektywnej [Studies of effective personality]. In K. Obuchowski, W. J. Paluchowski (Eds.) Efektywnosc a osobowose [Efficiency and personality] (pp. 5 - 24). Wroclaw: Ossolineum.
Oleszkiewicz, Z. (1982). Demand for stimulation and vocational preferences, Polish Psychological Bulletin. 13, 185 - 195.
Ross, A., Parker, M. (1980). Academic and social self- concept of academically gifted, Exceptional Children, 47, 6 - 10.
Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 80 (1. Whole No. 609).
Solow, R. E, (1995). Parents reasoning about the social and emotional developments of their intellectually gifted children. Roeper Review, 18, 142 - 147.
Scigala, 1. (1991). Tworczosc i zdrowie psychiczne we wspolczesnej mysli kreatywistycznej [Creativity and mental health in present creative thinking] In H. Sekowa (Ed.). Tworczosc i kompetencje zyciowe a zdrowie psychiczne [Creativity and lite competition and mental health] (pp. 5 - 18). Poznan: Adam Mickiewicz University.
Whitmore, J. (1980). Giftedness, conflict, and under-achievement. London: Allyn and Bacon, Inc.
Wrzesniewski, K., Sosnowski, T. (1987). Inwentarz Stanu i Cechy Leku ISCL. Polska Adaptec STAI. [The State and Dimensions of Anxiety Inventory ISCL. The polish adaptation of STAI]. Warszawa: Polish Psychological Society.
Yewchuk, C. R., Schlosser, G. A. (1995). Characteristics of the parents of eminent Canadian women. Roeper Review, 18 (1), 78 - 83.
Zuckerman, M. (1966). Development of a Sensation Seeking Scale. Journal of Consulting Psychology. 28, 477 - 482.
Manuscript submitted July, 1997.
Revision accepted May, 1998.
Irena Pufal-Struzik is Assistant Professor, Institute of Psychology, at the Educational University of Kielce, Poland. For nearly years 20 she has been interested in the psychology of creation and has conducted empirical research concerning creative thinking in children and young people as well as scientific, technical and artistic creation.3…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Self-Actualization and Other Personality Dimensions as Predictors of Mental Health of Intellectually Gifted Students. Contributors: Pufal-Struzik, Irena - Author. Journal title: Roeper Review. Volume: 22. Issue: 1 Publication date: September 1999. Page number: 44. © 1999 The Roeper School. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.