Academic journal article Exceptional Children

An Investigation of Self-Concept in Gifted Children

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

An Investigation of Self-Concept in Gifted Children

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: The study explored several issues respecting the self-concept in children categorized as gifted: (a) the relative independence of specific components of self-perceptions; (b) the way in which these factors relate to global self-esteem; and (c) the extent to which a developmental process operates in the evolution of the self-concept. Data were collected from a sample of pupils enrolled in enrichment classes, grades 5 through 8. Measures included the Self-Perception Profile for Children and a teacher-rating measure of pupil attributes. The results confirmed the relative independence of the specific components and showed that self-perceptions of social and scholastic competence and of physical appearance were the major contributors to the self-concept. There was no evidence, however, for the operation of a developmental process.

There has been a considerable expansion in theoretical and empirical efforts to analyze children's self-perceptions over the past 10 years or so (cf. Byrne, 1984; Harter, 1983; Shavelson, Hubner, & Stanton, 1976). One of the more interesting of the recent theoretical developments is that offered by Harter (1983, 1986). Harter's work has been especially useful in two ways. First, she has treated self-concept as a multidimensional construct rather than a unitary entity; second, she has provided measuring instruments appropriate for assessing aspects of her model.

The present study is an effort to assess certain postulates of her model with a sample of pupils categorized as gifted. Though the question of self-concept in the gifted has received considerable research attention cf Schneider, 1987), most efforts have entailed comparisons of gifted and nongifted samples in terms of global selfconcept. Relatively little attention has been paid to the structure of the self-concept in gifted children, the issue of concern in the present study.

Two key postulates of that model are examined here. First, Harter hypothesized that selfconcept in children is composed of a global component and a set of specific components (having to do, for example, with perceived social competence and academic competence). She further hypothesized that the global component of the selfconcept represents a relatively independent construct, rather than an additive product of the specific components. A similar formulation has been advanced by Byrne (1984), Shavelson et al. (1976), and Winne and Marx (1981).

A second key postulate of the model is that a developmental process operates in the case of the self-concept in the sense that the specific components of self-esteem become more differentiated over the life span. Thus, whereas very young children might show a great deal of overlap among social, academic, and athletic competence, these areas of the self-concept will be more independent in older children. It follows, as well, that the way in which the specific components relate to global self-worth will change with the age of the child.

Some data bearing on the two postulates have been reported in studies using an earlier self-report measure, the Perceived Competence Scale for Children (Harter, 1982). This measure is scored in terms of four factor scores: Cognitive Competence, Social Competence, Physical Competence, and General Self-Worth.

Both Harter (1982) and Byrne and Schneider (1988) have reported correlational and factor analytic results supporting the postulate that the specific aspects of self-concept exist relatively independently of one another and of the global self-worth construct. The latter researchers demonstrated these findings for samples of pupils from both regular and gifted classrooms.

These researchers obtained somewhat contradictory findings respecting the way in which the specific dimensions of perceived competence related to global self-worth. Thus, Harter (1982) reported that the physical and social competence factors were most closely related to global self-worth for her sample of regular classroom pupils, while Byrne and Schneider (1988) found that the strongest links with global self-worth were obtained with the cognitive and social factors, and this pattern was true for both the gifted and regular samples of pupils. …

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