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The Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Students

Carolyn M. Callahan
Claudia J. Sowa
Kathleen M. May
Ellen Menaker Tomchin
Jonathan A. Plucker
Caroline M. Cunningham
Wesley Taylor

This research monograph on the social and emotional development of gifted students' is divided into four parts. Part 1 of the report focuses on analysis of the literature. Parts 2-4 present results of seven qualitative and quantitative studies of adolescent development.

In Part 2, Studies 1 and 2 expand Lazarus and Folkman's cognitive appraisal paradigm to gifted youngsters. This paradigm indicates individuals may problem-solve using process or achievement adjustment. Study 1, a qualitative case study, describes the development of and issues facing individuals whose dominant coping processes involve process adjustment and individuals preferring achievement adjustment. Study 2 examined the model's construct validity in a quantitative study of 457 gifted adolescents. Results confirm the model's hypothesis relating coping strategies to the adjustment mechanisms and self-concepts of gifted adolescents and supported the expanded model's usefulness for examining the development of gifted children and adolescents. Study 3 presents an in-depth case study of one family's attempt to deal with issues faced by an adolescent male and the effects of their interventions.

In Part 3 the investigators examine the social and emotional development of two subpopulations. Study 4 used data collected in the qualitative phase of the study to describe how young gifted women cope with adjustment issues. The findings indicate that there are particular traits inhibiting achievement and adjustment in young adolescent females. Study 5, a second qualitative study, suggested that evaluation of coping concepts in multi-ethnic students may require alternative conceptions of the constructs traditionally used in the research on coping and resilience.

Part 4 extends the quantitative study of the model and related hypotheses. Study 6 indicates the family cohesion is more related to positive coping strategies than is family adaptability. The final study revealed that academic self-concept was depressed for grade-advanced (accelerated) male adolescents.

Reference:
Callahan, C. M., Sowa, C. J., May, K. M., Tomchin, E. M., Plucker, J. A., Cunningham, C. M., & Taylor, W. (2004). The social and emotional development of gifted students (RM04118). Storrs, CT: The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, University of Connecticut.


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The Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Students
Carolyn M. Callahan
Claudia J. Sowa
Kathleen M. May
Ellen Menaker Tomchin
Jonathan A. Plucker
Caroline M. Cunningham
Wesley Taylor


Conclusions

  1. Families and schools should foster a balance between achievement adjustment and process adjustment mechanisms to assist gifted children and adolescents in the development of social and emotional adjustment skills.
  2. It is important that schools and families help young people learn to understand the views of their peers and others even when they are perceived as dissimilar.
  3. Gifted adolescents' frequent use of certain coping strategies suggests that they assume personal responsibility for dealing with stressors.
  4. Current conceptions of psychological characteristics may have to be modified to determine their applicability in multi-ethnic situations, with children from various ability groups, and with respect to gender.
  5. Family cohesion seems to be more highly related to gifted adolescent coping strategies than is family adaptability.