Psychosocial functioning of high-ability youth: Insights from the Talent-project

Psychosocial functioning of high-ability youth: Insights from the Talent-project

Psychosocial functioning of high-ability youth: Insights from the Talent-project

Symposium141Jeroen Lavrijsen, KU Leuven, Belgium; Alicia Ramos, KU Leuven, Belgium; Sofie Hendrix, KU Leuven, Belgium

OceaniaThu 10:45 - 12:15

Scientific

Intellectual giftedness is often assumed to be a risk factor for psychosocial maladjustment. However, empirical research has not unequivocally supported this assumption. In this symposium we aim to further our understanding of the psychosocial functioning of high-ability youth by (a) examining different aspects of psychosocial functioning (i.e., mental health, self-concept, peer relationships), and (b) paying attention to differences within the high-ability group. As psychosocial factors have been argued to play a key role in talent development (Subotnik et al., 2011), these insights may help support the realization of personal and societal potential.

Chair: Karine Verschueren (KU Leuven)Discussant: Rena Subotnik (APA) (pending acceptance of the symposium she submitted to the ECHA-conference)

The papers in this symposium use samples recruited from two large-scale longitudinal studies within the TALENT project (N = 5,740 and 3,409 students, respectively). Cognitive ability was tested through standardized cognitive tests. As the high-ability students were not preselected, positive or negative bias was prevented. The first paper addresses differences between high- and average-ability youth on mental health outcomes, such as internalizing problems and maladaptive perfectionism. Also, it investigates which parental practices are related with increased risks for maladaptive perfectionism. The second paper examines math self-concept development in the transition from primary to secondary school and investigates the long-term educational outcomes of math self-concept declines, comparing high- with average-ability students. The third paper investigates differences in peer-related loneliness among high-ability youth and how they relate to individual (e.g., personality, level of intelligence) and social contextual predictors (e.g., number of friendships). The fourth paper uses a multi-method approach and focuses on affinity for solitude among high-ability students, exploring differences in motivation and its implications for psychosocial well-being. An expert on giftedness and talent development will reflect on these findings and their implications for gifted education and talent development programs.

Presentation 1: Intellectual giftedness and mental health: findings from a large community sample of adolescents
Jeroen Lavrijsen (KU Leuven) and Karine Verschueren (KU Leuven)
Whereas intellectual giftedness is often assumed to increase risks of psychological maladjustment, research does not seem to support such an association (Francis, Hawes, & Abbott, 2016). In this study, we present results from a large scale study in a Flemish community sample of 3,409 7th grade students (49.6% boys, Mage = 12.5 years). A range of mental health outcomes (maladaptive perfectionism, externalizing and internalizing problem behavior, fear of failure) were surveyed, both with self- and parent-reports. Students were defined as cognitively gifted if they scored among the top 10% of a representative age group on a cognitive ability test (CoVaT-CHC) (IQ ≥ 120; n = 403). These students were compared to a reference group consisting of average ability students (IQ between 90 and 110). Overall, high ability students did not report more mental health problems than their peers; if any, differences were in favor of the high ability group. However, students who had been formally identified as gifted (i.e., who received a gifted label) did report worse adjustment for a number of outcomes. Finally, for one outcome (i.e., maladaptive perfectionism), parental antecedents were investigated, finding that maladaptive perfectionism was positively associated with parental practices such as criticism, excessive expectations, and conditional regard.

Presentation 2: Development of Math Self-Concept in the Transition to Secondary Education among High-Ability and Average-Ability Students
Alicia Ramos (KU Leuven) and Karine Verschueren (KU Leuven) Math self-concept, or a person’s subjective evaluation of his or her math abilities, is an important predictor of math achievement and selection of math-based study options and careers. Because high-ability students are uniquely positioned to achieve highly in math and pursue societally valuable STEM careers, understanding potential challenges in their math self-concept development is an important step in maximizing their personal and societal potential.This study aimed to better understand the development of math self-concept among high-ability students during the secondary school transition, a vulnerable period marked by fluctuations in self-perceptions, as well as implications of this development. It compared this development with that of average-ability students in a largescale longitudinal sample in Flanders, Belgium (N=5,740 students, 49.5% males). Latent change models revealed that high-ability students experienced steeper decline in math self-concept during the transition to secondary school than their average-ability peers. In both groups steeper math self-concept decline was associated with higher levels of later underachievement, lower achievement and school well-being, and higher probability of grade repetition. These findings establish that decline in math self-concept can have negative implications for longer-term educational outcomes, even when math self-concept level remains high relative to peers such as is the case for high-ability students.

Presentation 3: Heterogeneity in Loneliness Experiences of High-Ability Students: Individual and Social Context Predictors
Nina Steenberghs (KU Leuven), Jeroen Lavrijsen (KU Leuven), Luc Goossens (KU Leuven) and Karine Verschueren (KU Leuven)Loneliness is a common problem among early adolescents who are at a crossroad in their social development. It is often claimed that loneliness would be especially relevant for high-ability students because they would experience more difficulty in socializing with their peers. Research on this issue has yielded mixed results. This study examined the diversity in feelings of loneliness of cognitively gifted students. Individual differences (intelligence level, giftedness label, personality) and differences in the social context (social preference, victimization, friendship quantity) of adolescents were considered as predictors of loneliness. Additionally, gender differences in these relations were investigated. The sample consisted of 403 students from the TALENT sample, belonging to the top 10% of their age group in terms of cognitive capabilities (Mage = 12.4 years, 50.3% males). Variables were measured longitudinally across four waves in two consecutive school years using self-report and peer nominations. Multilevel growth curve analysis revealed that all predictors except giftedness label predicted loneliness over time. Gender differences were found for effects of social preference and victimization. These findings indicate that intellectual giftedness as such is not a risk factor for loneliness, but rather that there are circumstances within which high-ability students are more likely to be lonely.

Symposium paper 4

Presentation 4: Affinity for solitude in high-ability adolescents: motivations underlying time spent alone and its impact on psychosocial well-being
Sofie Hendrix (KU Leuven), Jeroen Lavrijsen (KU Leuven) and Karine Verschueren (KU Leuven)Affinity for solitude is often associated with maladaptive psychosocial outcomes. However, this may vary depending on whether spending time alone is motivated by positive or reactive factors. Previous research showed that high-ability adults experience a greater need for being alone. To date, affinity for solitude and underlying motivations have not yet been examined in cognitively gifted adolescents. To address these gaps, the present study examines (a) the motivations for affinity with solitude among cognitively gifted adolescents and (b) if these motivations moderate the relation of affinity with solitude with psychosocial wellbeing. Participants are 270 high-ability adolescents (Mage= 16,25 years) from the TALENT sample. Several indices of psychosocial wellbeing were gathered, along with affinity for solitude and qualitative self-reports of underlying motivations. First findings will be presented at the ECHA conference. By examining the influence of motivation for solitude on the relationship between affinity for solitude and psychosocial well-being, we hope to gain a better understanding of the implications of being alone and which groups of high-ability students are at greater risk for psychosocial difficulties.

_POLICY MAKERS, _PRACTITIONERS, _PSYCHOLOGISTS, _RESEARCHERS, Mental health, Peer relationships, Psychosocial functioning, Selfconcept
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