Gifted and Non-Gifted Lebanese Adolescents: Gender Differences in Self-Concept, Self-Esteem and Depression
Sarouphim, Ketty M., International Education
Adolescence has been referred to as the "problem years" (Meredith, 2009), an age of storm and stress, characterized by a drop in self-concept, self-esteem, and social adjustment, particularly in girls (Harter, 2006). During this transitional stage of development, adolescents encounter many psychological, social, and emotional conflicts, thereby making this period of life a particularly challenging time for individuals and their families (Vialle, Heaven, & Ciarrochi, 2007). But not all research supports this bleak portrayal of youth. In one study on a large sample from ten industrialized countries including Italy, Japan, and the U.S., the results revealed that most adolescents had a positive self-image, were optimistic and confident about their future, and showed positive feelings towards their families (Offer, Ostrov, Howard, & Atkinson, 1988).
With respect to the psycho-social adjustment of gifted adolescents, research has yielded mixed results. In some studies, giftedness was found to constitute an additional burden on the adolescents in their quest for identity, thus making this period more difficult for young individuals (Peterson, 2006), whereas in others, the findings indicated that gifted adolescents had positive self-concepts (Jiannong, Ying, & Xingli, 2008; Reis & Renzulli, 2004) and lived lives comparable to their peers with no more depressive symptoms than other, non-gifted youth (Shaunessy, Suido, Hardesty, & Shaffer, 2006).
In Lebanon, a small country in the Middle East, little research has been conducted on both the period of adolescence (Ayyash-Abdo, 2007) or on gifted learners (Sarouphim, 2009). The country lacks a formal system of education for the gifted, as the emphasis in the national school curriculum remains on mainstream education (Sarouphim, 2010). Also, awareness of the importance of the transitional period of adolescence is still at a preliminary stage among the Lebanese community (Ayyash-Abdo, 2007).
The purpose of this study was to investigate gender differences in self-concept, self-esteem and depression among gifted and non-gifted adolescents in Lebanon. Two questions have guided this study: 1) what are the levels of self-concept, self-esteem, and depression among gifted and non-gifted adolescents in Lebanon? And 2) Do gender differences exist in the self-concept, self-esteem, and depression of gifted and non-gifted adolescents in Lebanon?
At 10,452 square-kilometers, Lebanon is one of the smallest countries in the Middle East, about the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut. Adolescence in Lebanon is defined as a "period of physiological change, with no initiation ceremonies or rites to mark the passage" (Ayyash-Abdo, 2007, p. 583). This period begins, essentially, when puberty starts, but there are no specific boundaries with regards to when it ends and adulthood begins. As in the West, adolescents in Lebanon seek independence and show signs of defiance to authority; however, loyalty to the family and parental ties dominate relationships during this period of life, as leaving home and seeking autonomy from the family do not customarily happen before marriage (Ayyash-Abdo, 2007).
Lebanese society is patriarchal in nature; thus, gender inequalities prevail (Ayyash-Abdo, 2007). In early adolescence, menarche is associated with increased restrictions and decreased mobility for girls, whereas puberty in males signals more freedom outside the home and within the community (Mensh, Ibrahim, Lee, & El-Gebeili, 2003). Girls are expected to preserve the family's honor by avoiding sexual contact with boys and remaining virgins until their wedding day, although current trends indicate that girls are increasingly engaging in premarital sex. Surprisingly, no gender differences exist in the access to basic school education (Ayyash-Abdo, 2007). According to national reports for the year 2001, 98.1% of boys and 98. …