Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Relationship between Personality Adjustment and High Intelligence: Terman versus Hollingworth

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Relationship between Personality Adjustment and High Intelligence: Terman versus Hollingworth

Article excerpt

Relationship Between Personality Adjustment and High Intelligence: Terman versus Hollingworth

Despite over 50 years of published research, the relationship between personality adjustment and high intelligence continues to be a topic of controversy (Janos & Robinson, 1985). Early views (e.g., Lombroso, 1891) held that high intelligence was associated with insanity or a propensity for adjustment problems. This negative stereotype was largely refuted by Lewis Terman's longitudinal studies (Terman et al., 1925-1959). Terman and colleagues demonstrated convincingly that highly intelligent children, defined by Stanford-Binet IQs greater than 140, tended to be better adjusted than the norm on a wide range of adjustment variables. Research with other samples has supported this view (Kelly & Colangelo, 1984; Lehman & Erdwins, 1981; Reynolds & Bradley, 1983).

Concern over the adjustment of gifted-level children, however, has not abated. Even at the time of Terman's landmark work, another respected authority in the field, Leta Hollingworth (1942), contended that highly intelligent children were prone to develop social and emotional adjustment problems. Similar concerns have been repeated by many others (Austin & Draper, 1981; Janos & Robinson, 1985; Lajoie & Shore, 1981; Powell & Haden, 1984; Roedell, 1984; Schauer, 1976).

Thus, it appears that two distinct, seemingly antithetical, views exist regarding the adjustment of highly intelligent children. Research in the Terman tradition generally indicates that high intelligence is associated with healthy adjustment. What might be termed the Hollingworth perspective regards high intelligence as associated with adjustment problems (Hollingworth, 1942). (Note: The point of this article is not to set the personal views of Terman and Hollingworth at opposite ends of continuum, creating a strawman argument. Rather, the influential contributions and status of both authorities make their names convenient guideposts for identifying--and legitimizing--two contrasting perspectives on the relationship between adjustment and IQ.)

Taken to its logical conclusion, one view leads to the hypothesis that there is a positive correlation between intelligence and adjustment. In contrast, the other view suggests that the correlation would be negative.

One possible explanation is that the relationship between IQ and adjustment is curvilinear, changing from positive to negative at some point within the gifted range. However, determination of the point at which IQ becomes a liability rather than an asset to healthy adjustment is difficult. In the space of a few pages, Hollingworth (1942, pp. 264-265) mentioned possible cutoff scores of 170, 160, and 150. It should be noted that Hollingworth's scores were ratio IQs based primarily on the 1916 Stanford-Binet. Ratio and deviation IQs are not equivalent. For example, according to the manual for the third revision of the Stanford-Binet (Terman & Merrill, 1973), a ratio IQ of 180 for an 11-year-old would correspond to a deviation IQ of 171, and a ratio IQ of 150 would be comparable to a deviation IQ of 144 (using Pinneau norms).

A number of studies have claimed poor adjustment in very high IQ children, but these studies were based on uncertain adjustment criteria and typically did not include appropriate comparison groups (Kincaid, 1969; Selig, 1951; Zorbaugh, Boardman, & Sheldon, 1951). Studies that contrasted higher and lower IQ groups directly suggest a different view. Gallagher and Crowder (1957) found that 35 children with 150+ IQs were generally well adjusted, despite a few exceptions. Gallagher (1958) found that 150+ IQ (Stanford-Binet) children were among the most popular children in their respective classes and found no differences between subgroups of 150-164-IQ and 165-205-IQ children. Lewis (1943), however, did report greater maladjustment and underachievement in a higher (145+) IQ group than in a lower (125-144) IQ group. …

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