Academic journal article Journal of Secondary Gifted Education

Importance of Personality in Gifted Children's Identity Formation

Academic journal article Journal of Secondary Gifted Education

Importance of Personality in Gifted Children's Identity Formation

Article excerpt


This study examines the importance of personality characteristics to identity formation in Terman's gifted sample. Four identity statuses of Identity Achievement, Moratorium, Foreclosure, and Diffusion, as well as two subgroups that followed progressive and regressive pathways in identity development, are compared in their personality characteristics. Results indicate that positive traits such as perseverance, purposiveness, desire to excel, and self-confidence are conducive to a successful identity formation and to the adoption of the progressive pathway in identity development.

Background of the Problem

Research on adolescent identity formation generally employs Erikson's theoretical framework of psychosocial development and Marcia's operational paradigm. According to Erikson, human development from infancy to old age progresses through eight stages, each characterized by a specific crisis. Identity vs. Identity Confusion is the developmental crisis characteristic of the stage of adolescence (Erikson, 1950, 1968). The concept of identity refers to the sense of self, "who I am" and "what I am going to be." Individuals who have successfully resolved the crisis will be able to find a niche in the society that integrates their personal characteristics and communal expectations. Erikson's identity theory, however, is difficult to examine empirically due to its impressionistic and holistic nature. That situation has changed since Marcia put forward his operational paradigm, which differentiates identity into four statuses along the dimension of exploration and commitment (Marcia, 1966, 1980). Exploration refers to the search among various options, and commitment means the decision made on a particular choice. The four statuses thus distinguished are: Identity Achievement, the status that is complete with both exploration and commitment; Moratorium, the status with the dimension of exploration, but without that of commitment; Foreclosure, the status for those who have made no exploration, but are nevertheless committed to a certain choice either by authority figures or circumstances; and, finally, Identity Diffusion, the status for those who have neither explored nor committed.

The Problem

Facilitated by the operational construct of identity, researchers have been examining identity formation with various groups and in different social or cultural contexts. Factors found to be influential to identity formation include age, cognitive and psychological development, family dynamics, role models, historical conditions, and social or cultural influences specific to gender or ethnicity. However, limited by the predominant student samples and short-term duration of investigation, most identity researchers are not in the position to follow their participants to see whether or not they are able to fulfill their talk from an identity interview when faced with tasks in the real world. As a result, identity studies, until now, have not looked closely into how the "identity talk" translates into identity behavior" and what the key factors are in the process. The present study intends to investigate the issue using a sample that is followed up longitudinally and able to demonstrate the importance of persona lity characteristics in the process of identity formation.

Rationale for the Study

As a crisis at a significant developmental stage, identity has stimulated considerable research in the past decades. Studies have been conducted with almost every conceivable group clustered by age, gender, race, political persuasions, religious beliefs, and sexual orientations. Despite the utmost importance of gifted children to society and the necessity for them to realize their true potential, they have, by and large, not received the attention they are clearly due in this respect.

An examination of Terman's most and least successful men demonstrates the crucial role of a clear sense of identity in life achievement (Zuo & Cramond, in press). …

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