Mental Health, Wellbeing and Signs of Intellectual Giftedness in a Flemish Population Study Paper Presentation
Author(s): Ciska Pieters, (KU Leuven, Belgium), Mathieu Roelants, (Environmental Health, Youth Health Care, KU Leuven, Belgium), Karine Verschueren, (School Psychology and Child and Adolescent Development, KU Leuven, Belgium), Tessa Kieboom, (Center for the Study of Giftedness, Antwerp, Belgium), Karel Hoppenbrouwers, (Environmental Health, Youth Health Care, KU Leuven, Belgium).
Aknowledgement: The JOnG! cohort study is conducted in the framework of the Policy Research Centre of Welfare, Public Health and Family, supported by the Flemish Government. The JOnG!Talent study is supported by the foundation ‘Go For Happiness’.
Background: School health professionals are often confronted with questions from parents about the wellbeing of their child labeled as gifted. Because of conflicting evidence in the literature and the lack of epidemiological data, there is currently no consensus on the specific care needs for these children.
Aims: To assess and compare mental health and wellbeing in Flemish children and adolescents with and without signs of giftedness; and to investigate mental health and wellbeing in relation to signs of intellectual giftedness and socio-demographic characteristics.
Methods: Questionnaire data from 1891 6-year old children and 1499 12-year old adolescents were collected in a multidisciplinary population based cohort study in Flanders (JOnG!), and from 223 clients of a counseling service for gifted children. Parental questionnaires included items on behavior (e.g. Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, SDQ), intellectual giftedness and the socio-demographic background. Self-report questionnaires for adolescents included the SDQ and instruments on wellbeing (e.g. KIDSCREEN-10). Cognitive abilities were assessed during a face-to face-contact in a sample of children with and without signs of giftedness (n=290 in total). Questionnaire data were analyzed in relation to intelligence scores of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-III (WISC-III).
Results: Regression analysis indicated that children labeled as gifted had significantly higher SDQ overall problem scores at ages 7 (p<0,001) and 8 (p<0,001). According to the parent report, adolescent clients of a counseling service for gifted youth, showed significantly higher overall problem scores at ages 13 (p<0,001) and 14 (p<0,01), even when corrected for the label giftedness. Conflicting results were found in the adolescent self-report, with little or no effects of being a client of a counseling service, nor of the label giftedness, on SDQ overall scores or wellbeing. Effects of intelligence on SDQ scores were non-significant or tended to lower SDQ problem scores in both children and adolescents.
Conclusions: Several aspects of mental health in Flemish youth seem to be related to signs of intellectual giftedness, but nature and strength of this association depends on the informant, age group and criteria used to define giftedness.