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An Examination of the Relationships between Ego Development, Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration, and the Behavioral Characteristics of Gifted Adolescents

An Examination of the Relationships between Ego Development, Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration, and the Behavioral Characteristics of Gifted Adolescents

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  • Differences including….Intensities, Sensitivities, Idealism, Perceptiveness, Overexcitabilities, Asynchrony, Complexity, etc.Asynchronous development – proposed as the underlying component that creates that qualitatively different experience for gifted adolescents…Often results in gifted adolescents being “out-of-step” with their peers & hypothesized as contributing to their heightened social & emotional distressCombined with mixed messages received about their “giftedness” from parents, teachers, peers, and society as well as their own tendencies towards heightened self-criticism & perfectionism can create the perfect internal storm… How do gifted adolescents learn to cope with these stressors, what mechanisms do they use?More vulnerable due to unique issues & perspective vs. As well adjusted as their peers… But even if “as well adjusted” their perspective and way of making meaning in the world has been shown to be different than those of their peers, thus interventions need to be tailored to meet their unique needs.
  • Cognitive Developmental Theory provides a framework for examining processes and stages through which individuals progress across the lifespanProvide counselors and educators a way of understanding the meaning-making structures inherent in the thoughts, actions, emotions, and behaviors of the students with whom they workEgo – frame for how the self, others, and the environment are perceived & interpreted – thus guiding the individual’s behaviorAn adaptive process related to cognitive complexityVery little in the research literature on the unfolding of this process as it pertains to gifted individualsDabrowski – shares many of the tenets of cognitive developmental theoryFocus on understanding the inner experiences of the individual and how those experiences impact the self in relation to others
  • Asynchronous development Often results in gifted adolescents being “out-of-step” with their peers & hypothesized as contributing to their heightened social & emotional distressCombined with mixed messages received about their “giftedness” from parents, teachers, peers, and society as well as their own tendencies towards heightened self-criticism & perfectionism can create the perfect internal storm… How do gifted adolescents learn to cope with these stressors, what mechanisms do they use?
  • Examination of gifted student’s experiences in specific developmental domainsEGOLevels of ego development have been linked with behavioral issues in adolescence (Krettenauer et al., 2003)Lower levels – more externalizing behaviorsHigher levels – more internalizing behaviorsCoping thus is “tied to the ways in which individuals organize and make meaning of themselves and important relationships (Recklitis & Noam, 1999)”DABROWSKIExpands beyond cognitive aspects of moral reasoning and ego organization to addressing the emotional dynamics of personal growth, particularly at higher levels of human developmentHallmark of TPD is that development to higher levels is achieved through the process of inner conflict…Disconnect between “what is” and “what ought to be”Necessary components of growth: Positive maladjustment, Overexcitabilities, Inner driveExplains many characteristics of gifted individuals in less pathological, more developmentally positive lens
  • Purpose of the research is to build a more comprehensive understanding of the unique social-emotional and developmental characteristics of gifted adolescents to enable the design and implementation of more effective and appropriate intervention and counseling approaches specific to the needs of this population
  • Descriptive statistical analyses – utilized to determine means and standard deviations for the obtained dataCorrelational analyses – employed to determine relationships between dependent variables Level of Ego development Dabrowskian developmental level Behavioral characteristics as indicated by the overall Behavioral Index (CBI), Internalizing, Externalizing, Social Skills, Competence, and Gifted & Talented Subscales on the CABMultivariate Analyses of Variance (MANOVAs) – As demographic variables may also impact the analyses these were examined through MANOVAsFollow-up Univariate Analyses of Variance (ANOVAs)MANOVAs were used to assess the statistical significance of the effects one or more of the independent variables may have on the dependent variables, and to guard against Type I error
  • 100 students contacted – 70 chose to participateFairly even distribution between the two schoolsEvenly divided by genderAges ranged from 14 – 18, normally distributedAlso normally distributed across grade levelsEthnicity – 88.6% Caucasian, 7.1% African-American, & 4.3% Asian-AmericanDistribution similar to that of the two schools
  • Ranged across five levels from the Self-Protective Level to the Individualistic LevelHighest numbers found in the Self-Aware Level (41.4%) and Conscientious Level (37.1%)These are slightly lower than Loevinger’s established norms M=5.68, but that was a sample spanning the lifespan & not confined to the adolescent age range
  • < 1.5 – Level I1.5 – 2.49 – Level IIEtc…The majority of our sample fell within the Level II range (70%) – Unilevel Disintegration
  • According to Bracken & Keith the CBI represents the best estimate of the student’s overall level of adjustment,With 0 – 59 within the normal range Clinical Scales…>60 mild to moderate to significant clinical riskAdaptive Scales…Higher scores = adaptive strengthsIndicate an overall healthy and adaptive level of functioning
  • Mean for the current study data was M=5.31Bursik & Martin sampleUS high school students M=4.27 (more than a full level beneath our sample)Westenberg sampleIn-patient and non-psychiatric sample M=3.79 significantly lower than the current sample
  • Skewness – value between +/- 1.00 considered excellent for most psychometric purposes (George & Mallory)
  • EGO - Distribution of scores across range of levels from E3 – E7 reinforces Silverman’s conceptualization of asynchronous development as all students, by virtue of their placement at highly competitive governor’s schools, are presumed to have higher levels of intellectual developmentDabrowski – Level II marks the beginning of positive disintegration… the process during which the previously held personality structure must come apart in order to be replaces by higher-level personality structures. While not always positive in its experience, is essential for the development of higher-level personality development. He later clarified that not all disintegrative processes are developmental and without proper support can have negative and potentially harmful effects on the individual’s mental health & further developmentPiechowski (1975) emphasizes that personality development does not progress consistently over time, that there are “periods of great intensity and disequilibrium (psychoneuroses, depression, creative process), and there are periods of equilibrium” (p. 259). Levels II – IV are characterized by internal and external conflicts, referred to as positive maladjustment by Dabrowski, that are necessary in promoting further developmental growth. It is during this time that the unique vulnerabilities described by many in the field of gifted education may be most evident.
  • Transcript

    • 1. An Examination of the Relationshipsbetween Ego Development,Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration, andthe Behavioral Characteristics of Gifted Adolescents Carrie Lynn Bailey, Ph.D., NCC, LPC, LPSC 9th International Congress if the Institute for Positive Disintegration in Human Development St. Charles, Illinois  July 22 -24, 2010
    • 2. Description of the Problem Social, Emotional, & Behavioral Characteristics of Gifted Adolescents Ego Developmental Development Potential
    • 3. Social & Emotional Characteristics andBehavioral Traits of Gifted Adolescents “Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” The Columbus Group, 1991 Cited by Martha Morelock, “Giftedness: The View from Within”
    • 4. Description of the Problem Gifted individuals experience the world from a qualitatively different perspective  Asynchronous Development  Potential internal dissonance Research on vulnerabilities of gifted adolescents is mixed…  More vulnerable due to unique issues & perspective  As well adjusted as their peers Much emphasis is given in schools to academic growth but little emphasis on understanding emotional development
    • 5. Gaps in the Literature Ego Development Theory  “Master Trait” – organizing structure of personality  Provides a wealth of understanding relevant to emotional development across the lifespan  Very little in the research specific to gifted individuals Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration  Unique perspective on developmental growth particularly relevant to the social & emotional characteristics of gifted individuals  Lacking empirical support
    • 6. Gaps in the Literature Research literature concerning the social, emotional, and behavioral characteristics is rich in conceptual work, but in need of more empirical exploration and support… Little exploration of how the domains represented by Loevinger’s ego development and Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration fit with the conceptualizations of asynchronous development for gifted adolescents…
    • 7. New Perspective Ego development  How these students make sense of themselves in relation to others and their social context Dabrowski’s TPD  Consideration of the sensitivities and overexcitabilities inherent to this population Behavioral characteristics  Snapshot of the student’s adaptive and coping behaviors
    • 8. General Research Questions1. What are the ego development levels of gifted adolescents?2. What are the developmental levels, as related to Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration (TPD), of gifted adolescents?3. What are the exhibited behavioral characteristics of gifted adolescents in the school context?
    • 9. General Research HypothesesI. The range and distribution of gifted adolescent’s levels of ego development as measured by the Washington University Sentence Completion Test (WUSCT) will not differ significantly from established adolescent norms.II. There will be a moderate positive correlation between gifted adolescent’s stage of ego development as measured by the Washington University Sentence Completion Test (WUSCT) and their Dabrowskian developmental level as measured by the Definition Response Instrument (DRI).
    • 10. General Research HypothesesIII. There will be a significant positive correlation between gifted adolescent’s ego development as measured by the Washington University Sentence Completion Test (WUSCT) and their degree of internalizing behavior as measured by the Clinical Assessment of Behavior Teacher Rating Scale (CAB-T).IV. There will be a significant negative correlation between gifted adolescent’s ego development as measured by the WUSCT and their degree of externalizing behavior as measured by the Clinical Assessment of Behavior Teacher Rating Scale (CAB-T).
    • 11. General Research HypothesesV. There will be a normal distribution of behaviors exhibited by gifted adolescents as measured by the Clinical Assessment of Behavior Teacher Rating Scale (CAB-T).
    • 12. Methodology Descriptive study Sample  70 gifted students at regional academic-year governor’s schools – randomly selected Instrumentation  Demographic Information Form  Washington University Sentence Completion Test (WUSCT)  Definition Response Instrument (DRI)  Clinical Assessment of Behavior Teacher Rating Scale (CAB-T)
    • 13. Data Analyses Descriptive statistical analyses Pearson product-moment correlational analyses (Pearson r) Multivariate Analyses of Variance (MANOVAs) Follow-up Univariate Analyses of Variance (ANOVAs)
    • 14. Results – Descriptive Data
    • 15. Ego DevelopmentResearchQuestion One:What are the egodevelopment levelsof gifted adolescentsas measured by theWUSCT?M=5.31, SD=.941Mdn=5.00, Mode=5
    • 16. Dabrowskian Developmental LevelResearchQuestion Two:What arethe Dabrowskiandevelopmental levelsof gifted adolescentsas measured by theDRI?M=2.0, SD=.527, Mdn=2.0
    • 17. Behavioral CharacteristicsResearchQuestion Three:What are theexhibited behavioralcharacteristics ofgifted adolescents inthe school context?Behavioral Index (CBI)M=42.01, SD=6.57Mdn=41.00, Mode=40
    • 18. Hypothesis One – not supported The range and distribution of gifted adolescent’s levels of ego development as measured by the Washington University Sentence Completion Test (WUSCT) will not differ significantly from established adolescent norms.
    • 19. Hypothesis Two – not confirmed There will be a moderate positive correlation between gifted adolescent’s stage of ego development as measured by the Washington University Sentence Completion Test (WUSCT) and their Dabrowskian developmental level as measured by the Definition Response Instrument (DRI). DRI – Summed SCT Scores (r=.221, p=.066) DRI – Total Protocol SCT Scores (r=.165, p=.173)
    • 20. Hypothesis Three - conditional There will be a significant positive correlation between gifted adolescent’s ego development and their degree of internalizing behavior as measured by the Clinical Assessment of Behavior (CAB). MANOVAs revealed significant gender and school differences  No significant correlations found when controlling for gender  Significant positive correlation (r=.452, p=.011) found for students at School A between the CAB INT and Summed SCT Scores
    • 21. Hypothesis Four - conditional There will be a significant negative correlation between gifted adolescent’s ego development and their degree of externalizing behavior as measured by the Clinical Assessment of Behavior (CAB-T). MANOVAs – significant gender and school differences  No significant correlations found when controlling for school  No significant correlations found for females  A significant negative correlation (r= -.342, p=.044) found for males between the CAB EXT and Total Protocol SCT Scores
    • 22. Hypothesis Five - supported There will be a normal distribution of behaviors exhibited by gifted adolescents as measured by the Clinical Assessment of Behavior (CAB-T). Mean=42.01 SD=6.566 Skewness=.494 Kurtosis= -.125
    • 23. Discussion Exploratory study  Establish baseline understanding of the ego developmental levels and Dabrowskian developmental levels for gifted adolescents  Ego levels of gifted adolescents slightly higher than broader adolescent samples  Majority of gifted adolescents in our sample within Dabrowski’s Level II – Unilevel Disintegration, a critical transition phase
    • 24. Discussion Behavioral Characteristics  Data seem to support the assertion that giftedness enhances resiliency – however, important to note these scores represent teacher’s perceptions of students…  Unique school environments (Governor’s schools)  Consideration of research examining image management as social coping strategy (Coleman & Cross, 1988)
    • 25. Discussion Ego Development and Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration  Lack of a strong, significant correlation indicates that while ego development and development as related to Dabrowski’s TPD may share similarities, they are two distinct constructs  Important differences between the two theories warrant further investigation
    • 26. Limitations Lack of clear, consistent definition of “giftedness” Limited diversity of sample Small sample size & potential selection bias Differences between schools Instrumentation  Use of WUSCT short-form  Lack of strong research base for DRI  Challenges inherent to Teacher Ratings for Behavior
    • 27. Implications – Future Directions Quantitative data provide a baseline against which future studies can build Inclusion of normal student sample as comparison group for gifted student sample Expansion of inquiry, particularly for Dabrowski’s TPD, into broader adolescent population Qualitative analysis of data to provide greater depth of understanding for this specific sample Intervention Studies – DPE model
    • 28. References The full study can be found housed with ProQuest or through Dissertation Abstracts  An examination of the relationships between ego development, Dabrowskis theory of positive disintegration, and the behavioral characteristics of gifted adolescents by Bailey, Carrie Lynn, Ph.D., The College of William and Mary, 2009, 202 pages; AAT 3357530 For references, continued dialogue, or more information, please contact me at: Carrie Lynn Bailey Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development Georgia Southern University 912.478.5687 cbailey@georgiasouthern.edu Special thanks to my committee: Dr. Victoria Foster, Dr. Charles Gressard, & Dr. Carol Tieso