Differences between the self-perceptions of gifted high school freshmen (n = 62) and nongifted peers (n = 162) were assessed regarding intimacy with family and peers, social support, family responsibilities, self-esteem, depression, and risk-taking behavior. Gifted students perceived themselves as being more intimate with friends, assuming fewer family responsibilities, and taking more risks (both sports- and danger-related risks). Contrary to the literature suggesting delays in the social development of gifted students, these data indicate that gifted students may be socially precocious when compared with their nongifted peers. Gifted students and their teachers were also administered the Perceptions about Giftedness Scale. Gifted students reported feeling the same as, or better than, their peers about their academic and social skills, and their teachers closely agreed. However, the teachers rated the gifted students as being less happy than the students rated themselves.
Gifted students' psychological characteristics have been the subject of many studies (Janos, Fung, & Robinson, 1985; Kerr, Colangelo, & Gaeth, 1988; Loeb & Jay, 1987; Olszewski-Kubilius, Kulieke, & Krasney, 1988; Whalen & Csikszentmihalyi, 1989). However, most have focused on a single dimension. For example, Schowinski and Reynolds (1985) looked solely at anxiety in high-IQ children. Others have examined self-image (Whalen & Csikszentmihalyi, 1989), attitudes toward giftedness (Kerr et al., 1988), and depression (Berndt, Kaiser, & Van Aalst, 1982). Generally, these single-dimension studies suggest that gifted students have positive academic self-concepts but negative or ambiguous social relationships, although the literature is somewhat inconsistent. For example, gifted students had higher academic and social self-concepts in some studies (Karnes & Wherry, 1981; Kelly & Colangelo, 1984), but negative or ambiguous social confidence (Kerr et al., 1988) and lower expectations for social versus academic success (Ross & Parker, 1980) in others.
Another problem with these findings is that comparisons of gifted and nongifted groups, as well as comparisons across studies, are questionable because of sample variations. For example, comparisons have been made between a relatively homogeneous group of gifted students and a heterogeneous group of nongifted students (e.g., Olszewski-Kubilius et al., 1988). In addition, the recruitment criteria have varied across studies. Some selected students based on scholastic aptitude (e.g., Mason, Adams, & Blood, 1966), while others recruited students who had participated in gifted programs earlier in their education (e.g., Tomlinson-Keasey & Smith-Winberry, 1983).
The present study attempted to avoid these problems by comparing gifted and nongifted students from a homogeneous sample within the same school. In addition, not just one but several dimensions were assessed--social, emotional, and cognitive. Gifted students' self-perceptions were compared with those of nongifted students on intimacy with family and peers, social support, family responsibilities, self-esteem, depression, and risk-taking behavior. Finally, gifted students and their teachers were administered the Perceptions about Giftedness Scale.
The sample was composed of 224 high school freshmen. Sixty-two were gifted (32 females and 30 males) and 162 were nongifted (85 females and 77 males). Their average age was 14.5 years. The criterion for participation in the gifted program was an IQ of 132 or above. The students were primarily white, black, or Hispanic (see Table 1 for distribution), and their self-reported socioeconomic status (SES) was as follows: low to low-middle, 14%; middle, 59%; and upper-middle to high, 27%. Their parents were also fairly representative of the middle-income group and most had a high school, college, or advanced degree (see Table 1). …