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Socioaffective Issues and Concerns Among Gifted
Rhoda Myra Garces-Bacsal
Published online: 20 Sep 2011.
To cite this article: Rhoda Myra Garces-Bacsal (2011) Socioaffective Issues and Concerns Among Gifted Filipino Children,
Roeper Review, 33:4, 239-251, DOI: 10.1080/02783193.2011.603112
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02783193.2011.603112
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240 R. M. GARCES-BACSAL
on Asian American socioaffective realities among the gifted
would be the research done by Wu (2008) on parental inﬂu-
ence on children’s talent development through case studies
done with three Chinese American families.
Other studies that could be linked to socioaffective con-
cerns of Asian learners would include Chih-Chuan and
Kellegrew’s (2000) research on the relationship between
achievement and occupation in the self-concept develop-
ment of gifted Taiwanese adolescents, the exploration of
emotional intelligence and how it relates to social cop-
ing among gifted adolescents in Hong Kong (Chan, 2003),
and how emotional intelligence could be linked to self-
perceived creativity and family hardiness of Chinese gifted
students in Hong Kong (Chan, 2005b). Except for the recent
study done on how projective techniques can be used as a
window to discovering socioemotional issues among gifted
Filipino children (Garces-Bacsal, 2010), a detailed socioaf-
fective proﬁling of gifted learners from other Southeast
Asian contexts and how it is similar or different from the
Western realities is yet to be found in the gifted litera-
Robinson, Reis, Neihart, and Moon (2002) have compiled
some of the leading research ﬁndings on socioaffective con-
cerns of gifted students in their book, and one of their central
conclusions was that “gifted students who come from fam-
ilies that differ because of race, ethnicity, language, socioe-
conomic status, or a combination of these factors face their
own special challenges” (pp. 269–270). The authors recom-
mend that future research on the social and emotional needs
of children with high potential include the need to prioritize
the understanding of the “ways in which demographic and
personal variables interact with children’s abilities and envi-
ronments to determine the patterns of their lives” (p. 284).
It is therefore imperative to take notice of the voices of
ethnically diverse children such as the Filipino gifted learn-
ers and note how their socioaffective concerns, issues, and
characteristics mirror those of their Western counterparts.
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Annemarie Roeper (1977, 2003, 2008) was among the ﬁrst
researchers to include the affective domain in her deﬁnition
of giftedness as a more enhanced sensitivity and awareness
and capacity to transform perceptions into emotional and
intellectual experiences. Rather than looking at the intensity
of emotions as evidence of a rich inner life, it has always
been derided as a sign of emotional instability (Lombroso,
1905, as cited in Silverman, 1993).
Silverman (2009) postulated an entirely different way of
looking at the affective component of the gifted. Rather than
just looking at it in comparison to the cognitive gifts of the
intellectually superior child, she has spoken about taking the
study of giftedness out of the classroom (where it is usually
done) to “the subterranean caverns of the Self—the relentless
search for meaning, for self-awareness, for compassion, for
all that one can become as a human being” (p. 141).
Dabrowski (1964) postulated a different approach to under-
standing gifted students as early as 1964. He noted that
gifted individuals manifest supersensitivity, translated as
overexcitabilities in more than just one domain. These
overexcitabilities (OEs; psychomotor, sensual, imagina-
tional, intellectual, and emotional) are used to partially
explain the intensiﬁed emotions, heightened awareness, as
well as increase in the levels of intellectual and physical
activity characterizing the gifted. However, other theorists
(Jackson & Butterﬁeld, 1986; Robinson et al., 2002) won-
dered whether this is truly a reﬂection of a qualitatively dif-
ferent characteristic that is inherent in the gifted or whether
it is merely a reﬂection of the maturity of their viewpoint.
As Robinson et al. pointed out, “What appears qualitatively
different may be common to other young people of chrono-
logical ages equivalent to the mental ages of the individuals
being described” (p. 271).
Silverman (1997) noted that, now more than ever, there
is a need to tap into the phenomenological realities of the
gifted child with a stress on their vulnerability rather than on
their strengths, particularly on the difﬁculties they encounter
as regards ﬁtting into a society that simultaneously loves
and hates them, as well as the crucial role being played by
the family as well as the school in enhancing their optimal
Filipino Conceptions on Giftedness
Considering the many skills and the advanced intellectual
development that the gifted child enjoys and possesses, many
people begin to perceive the child as mirrored in the Filipino
culture whereby strong religious components are evident
with the prevailing notion that the gifted child is a gift
from God (Baldo, 1987). Hence, aside from just calling
the intellectually superior child talented, genius, intelligent,
and fast learner, the gifted child also is called a blessed
or pinagpala/nainsagutan, connoting the blessings heaped
on the gifted person by the Almighty. Baldo’s disserta-
tion on the conceptualization of giftedness in the Philippine
context further showed that Filipinos basically hold the
same beliefs as Westerners as regards their beliefs on the
probable causes of giftedness (inborn talent inherited from
Apart from conceptions of giftedness among Tagalog-
speaking Filipinos (Baldo, 1987; Wong-Fernandez &
Bustos-Orosa, 2007), Filipino literature on giftedness gen-
erally focused on their motivations compared to children
with average cognitive capacities (Ingham & Price, 1993;
Zotomayor, 1987) or a characterization of the traits and
behaviors of the Filipino gifted (Camara, 1993). A majority
GIFTED FILIPINO CHILDREN—SOCIOAFFECTIVE ISSUES 241
of the research was done by experts in the ﬁeld of education
(Baldo; Camara, 1993; Zotomayor); only a few extensive and
full-length studies have come from the ﬁeld of psychology.
A qualitative–interpretive approach was utilized in this
research beccause the focus is on the socioaffective concerns,
issues, and characteristics of intellectually superior children,
as given voice by the children themselves and their parents.
Coleman, Guo, and Dabbs (2007) have recently docu-
mented and written a meta-analysis on the state of qualita-
tive research in gifted education as published in American
journals. They reported that there are seven variants of
interpretive research: ethnography (Coleman, 1991, 2001),
phenomenology (Vespi & Yewchuk, 1992), life history
(Morrissey, 2001), case study (Hettinger & Knapp, 2001),
deconstruction (Koro-Ljungberg, 2002), program evaluation
(Borland, Schnur, & Wright, 2000), and interviews (Wilcove,
1998). They concluded that qualitative research has only
begun in the gifted education ﬁeld. They likewise noted the
need for more case studies.
The qualitative–interpretive approach has thus far
been more widely utilized in qualitative health research
(McPherson & Thorne, 2006; Schlomann & Schmitke,
2007). In gifted research, however, Coleman et al. (2007)
related that “the strengths of interpretive inquiry have not
been tapped to explore the insider perspective on talent
development” (p. 61).
There was an emphasis on verstehen, or empathic under-
standing, in this research, which means looking at how
people feel inside and how they create meanings (Neuman,
2000)—in addition to adopting a phenomenological under-
standing of the children’s thoughts and feelings.
The Sikolohiyang Pilipino (SP; Filipino psychology)
model was likewise employed to make the conversations
more appropriate to the behaviors and everyday realities
of the ordinary Filipino. My goal as a researcher and as
a clinician was to move from a distanced connectedness
between myself as a researcher and the children and the par-
ents as respondents—termed pakikitungo in the SP model,
which belongs to the lowest level of connectedness with
respondents—to an intimate understanding and respect of the
respondents’ views and feelings—termed pakikiisa in the SP
model (Santiago & Enriquez, 1982). Rather than regarding
them as subjects in an ongoing study, they are valued more
as collaborators in the research process.
The narrative form of questioning employed is
pagtatanong-tanong in the SP model, which is known
as a form of questioning that assumes a deep level of trust
(Tuason, 2008) and pakikipagkuwentuhan (engaging the
participant/collaborator in conversation; Sobritchea, 2002).
The socioaffective concerns then were perceived from
the lenses of the gifted children themselves and from the
perspective of their parents.
The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children–Revised
(WISC-R) was used as the screening instrument for this
study because it is a widely used instrument for the identi-
ﬁcation of ethnically different gifted groups (Johnson, 1994)
and has also been used to increase the number of underrep-
resented minorities for selection in gifted and talented pro-
grams in the United States (Masten & Morse, 1995). Sevier
and Bain (1994) also conducted a comparison between
WISC-R and WISC-III as a screening instrument for poten-
tially gifted children. Their ﬁndings demonstrated that ele-
mentary schoolchildren being served by speciﬁc gifted pro-
grams scored signiﬁcantly lower on the WISC-III than the
WISC-R. The implication of this is that a large proportion of
gifted students would not have been identiﬁed and placed in
gifted programming if the WISC-III had been employed.
Multiple case studies were used in this research with 22
gifted children, aged 4–9 years old, who obtained an IQ of
120 and above on the WISC-R as the participants in the
study. Eleven children came from the public-school setting
and the remaining 11 came from the private-school sec-
tor. Purposive sampling was utilized and pseudonyms were
used to protect the participants’ anonymity as could be seen
in Table 1. The range of the children’s IQs was from 120
(8-year-old Lenny from the public-school setting) to 156
(8-year-old Adrian from the private-school group).
A supervisory team of clinical practitioners and develop-
mental psychologists from the University of the Philippines
also reviewed the research framework and the use of
projective instrument for ethical viability. The respon-
dents’ anonymity also was protected during the entire
data-collection process and identifying marks subsequently
were removed to further preserve the conﬁdentiality of the
Respondents From the Private-School Setting
For the private-school group, 4 children came from a
large-school setting (operationally deﬁned as a school with
Case Studies Arranged According to Type of School and Age
Group. Pseudonyms Used for Anonymity
Public Jaycee Jayjay Ricky
242 R. M. GARCES-BACSAL
equal to or more than two sections per primary level and
have more than 20 students in a single classroom setup and
have been in existence for the past 20 years or more) while
7 children came from a gifted-school setting (operationally
deﬁned as an institution that speciﬁcally claimed to cater to
the needs of gifted and talented children with as few as 7 to
a maximum of 25 students per class and with one section per
grade level). Informed consent was obtained from the parents
of the respondents for their participation in the study.
Respondents From the Public-School Setting
The public school in the study had been in existence since
the 1940s in the Quezon City area with a total student popu-
lation of more than 2,000 coming from the preschool to the
secondary level. On average, there were eight sections per
class in each of the primary and secondary level, with a total
of 50 to 60 students per classroom. Letters were given to the
school principal as well as to the parents of the identiﬁed stu-
dents and informed consent was obtained for participation in
Narrative Semistructured Interviews
Conversations (or Pakikipagkuwentuhan)
With the Children
Two to three sessions of narrative semistructured inter-
views were conducted with the gifted children. A voice
recorder was used to document the proceedings. With the
private-school respondents, the conversations ranged from as
short as 15 minutes to 1 hour and 23 minutes per session.
There is a wide disparity in the duration of the interviews
because some of the respondents were very young (4–5
years old); thus, rapport-building was crucial during the ﬁrst
session to avoid taxing the younger respondents’ attention
and energies. Hence, multiple interviews were conducted to
follow up on most of the issues raised in previous sessions.
Among the public-school respondents, the conversations
ranged from 14 minutes to as long as 57 minutes per ses-
sion. The younger children (aged 4–5) were given crayons
and notebooks and were requested to do some drawings,
which was used as a take-off point for the conversation.
The children were asked about (a) the things/situations that
make them happy, sad, angry; (b) the things they like best
about themselves and the things they wish to change; and (c)
their dreams for the future. (See Appendix A for Interview
Protocol for the children.)
Conversations (or Pakikipagkuwentuhan)
With the Parents
The children’s parents (and in two cases grandmothers)
were asked four basic questions:
1. What are the things that make their children happy,
2. How would they describe their children’s disposition?
3. How would they characterize their children’s emo-
4. What are their children’s dreams/aspirations? (See
Appendix B for Interview Protocol for the parents.)
The narrative semistructured one-on-one interviews with the
private-school parents ranged from 47 minutes to 2 hours and
42 minutes and conversations with the parents of the chil-
dren from the public-school setting ranged from 1 hour and
4 minutes to 3 hours and 45 minutes.
In all, there were 22 interview transcripts generated from
the parent interviews, 24 from the private-school respon-
dents (average of two interviews per child), and 25 from the
interviews with the public-school respondents—a total of 71
interview transcripts in all.
All these interview transcripts were uploaded onto a soft-
ware program for qualitative research called NVivo 7.0 for
data analysis. Each one was analyzed for emergent patterns
and recurring themes. After all 71 transcripts were analyzed,
a template was created to record citations from the actual nar-
ratives. A citation refers to a particular quotation/narrative
that contains a recurrent theme (e.g., perfectionism, indica-
tions of overexcitabilities). The parameters for each of the
generated themes were not standardized, given the grounded
framework and the qualitative nature of the procedure. All
transcripts were then recoded, reread, and reanalyzed once
the initial template for recording responses had been created.
Hence, the themes have been generated from the inter-
view transcripts themselves to ensure that the voices of the
respondents would be highlighted.
Member Checking or Testimonial Validity in Qualitative
Merrick (1999) deﬁned this as the process of formally and
informally checking the accuracy of the interpretation of
the researcher as perceived by the participants themselves.
The case proﬁles were shown to 11 out of the 22 parents for
their review as active collaborators in the research process,
in the event that they wanted to make some changes or mod-
iﬁcations on the narrative details. Two ﬁnal meetings were
likewise done with the parents at the end of the research,
and the predominant themes and patterns in the data analysis
were presented to them for their valuable comments and
insights (3 parents from the public-school group attended
and 7 parents/grandparents from the private-school setting
Merrick (1999) deﬁned peer debrieﬁng as collaboratively
engaging with other researchers about the data as well as
GIFTED FILIPINO CHILDREN—SOCIOAFFECTIVE ISSUES 243
the actual process of obtaining the data. Two of my former
colleagues (both assistant professors at the University of
the Philippines) who had extensive experience in conduct-
ing research using the qualitative paradigm agreed to go
through the interview transcripts with three children from
the private-school setting and three children from the public-
school group and their parents. Except for differences in
how the categories were phrased, the emergent themes were
likewise apparent to my colleagues and their insights were
likewise added into further enriching and reﬁning the ﬁnal
Replication and Generalization
Coleman et al. (2007) stated the nature of qualitative research
quite succinctly with the statement “Qualitative research, in
our view, cannot subscribe to the standard of replication and
generalization as described by National Research Council
because qualitative research intends to do neither” (p. 52).
Instead, it uses different criteria (Corbin & Strauss, 2008)
for substantiating research results:
1. The results must be relevant to the phenomenon being
studied. (This was conducted in the research through
2. The participants must be able to understand it.
3. The participants can use the results to have more
control of their lives in the given context.
4. Multiple sources are used. For this research, both par-
ents and children were interviewed and attempts were
made to see how the narratives given by the children
were reﬂected in the parent narratives.
Numbers 2 and 3 were done through member-checking in
which the actual parent respondents went through the case
proﬁles for greater transparency enabling them to be active
collaborators in the process. In adddition, they suggested
several modiﬁcations, which I noted during the actual writing
and reporting process.
There were four major themes that emerged after a thorough
analysis of the interview transcripts: (a) description of the
child’s affective states, disposition, and characteristics; (b)
manifestations of sensitivities and overexcitabilities; (c) per-
ception toward self; and (d) dreams and aspirations of the
Description of Gifted Child’s Affective States,
Disposition, and Characteristics
On Articulated Emotional States
Consistently, the children’s and parents’ responses about
the things that made them happy, sad, afraid, and angry were
largely centered around family concerns. They were happy
whenever they were granted privileges or provided material
things by their parents and when they got to spend time with
them (the latter being more salient with the private-school
group); they felt sad when they were separated from fam-
ily members or when there were conﬂicts with siblings or
extended family members; they felt upset whenever a family
member disagreed with them; and they were afraid of being
left alone and disappointing their parents when they did not
do well during examinations.
Among the private-school group, 8-year-old Ysabella
mentioned that she enjoys hanging out with her best friends
and making bracelets together, and 9-year-old Gabriella
noted that she has fun being with her same-aged cousins
and friends. Nine-year-old Donnie related that he enjoyed
hanging out with his friends and traveling with his family,
particularly in Hong Kong, where they get to visit relatives
and go shopping.
It can then be postulated that in addition to closeness to
family, involvement with the peer group happens to be quite
salient with the 7–9 age group for the private-school set-
ting. For the public-school group, 6 out of the 11 children
indicated celebrating their birthdays or going out together
as a family to be among the things that make them very
happy. Two out of the 11 indicated peer-related activities
such as joking around with classmates. No age-group dif-
ferences were very apparent. However, it was clearly noted
that in the absence of material things that would make them
happy, the public-school children seemed to ﬁnd social rela-
tionships rather than material rewards to be more salient in
The impact of such intimate connections with family
members was evident with the children’s feelings of sadness
and fear whenever there were forms of physical separation
from them. Whether the geographical boundaries were con-
siderably far (such as the case of 6-year-old Ricky from
public school whose mother was in Malaysia or 8-year-
old Adrian from private school whose mother was working
as a nurse in the United States) or relatively near (such
as the case of 6-year-old Katrize whose mother had just
recently started working again as a call center agent after
being a hands-on and stay-at-home mother to her since she
was small, or the case of 7-year-old Gerald whose mother
worked a as a news writer who sometimes worked up to 16
hours a day), it was evident that the separation from fam-
ily members affected them greatly. Even the separation from
one’s grandparents was likewise deemed to be problematic
for 9-year-old Carmina from public school. According to
There is one thing that really made me sad, when my grand-
parents left for America, because I felt that the house is not
complete if they are gone . . . my grandmother told me not
to cry, so I thought that since it was the last time that we will
be together, I would make sure to follow what she says.
244 R. M. GARCES-BACSAL
Perfectionism and Frustration Tolerance
Generally, this appeared to be a trend among the children
in this particular study because all of the children from the
private-school setting were said to manifest such indications
of perfectionism and were frustrated each time that they were
unable to execute what they had in their minds. This was
based on their own articulations as well as their caregivers’
regard of their children’s temperament.
The mother of 6-year-old Kitty from private school
clearly indicated this: “When she draws, she wants to make
it very realistic, but of course she is still unable to do just that
and she gets frustrated.”
The mother of 7-year-old Amelia related a similar inci-
dent as Amelia struggled to learn how to crochet:
Recently, I was like crocheting, and she’s like, ooh, I want to
do that, so I was trying to teach her, and her hands were like
hard for me . . . and she was like, it wasn’t coming out as well
as she wanted, she was actually trying to do it a different way,
so it would come out, and she really is getting frustrated on
me . . . so when she can’t do something that she knows she
can do . . . I was like saying to her, I was already old when I
learned to do this, so don’t get frustrated, so like those things
can like really make her annoyed . . . not getting what she
wants, and knowing she could do it, but somehow she just
cannot ﬁgure it out.
In the public-school group, not all of the parents noted this
to be particularly salient in their children. The 4–5 age group
was seem to enjoy playing quite a bit more at this point;
and the 8–9 age group seemed to focus more on interper-
sonal relationships or development of friendships rather than
task-oriented activities. Only the 6- and 7-year-olds (Ricky,
Katrize, Vic, and Gerald—4 out of the 11) were described as
showing signs of perfectionism by their parents.
Capacity for Humor
Though almost all of the children in the study were
observed to laugh spontaneously and smile easily, there were
several who speciﬁcally mentioned their enjoyment of shar-
ing jokes with family members, teachers, and classmates.
Seven-year-old Amelia from the private-school setting
was seem to have an appreciation of “pun” as her mother put
it. Though most children her age would not be able to grasp
the elements of a joke that was usually meant for adults,
Amelia found them highly amusing and entertaining.
Six-year-old Katrize from public school recounted some
of the jokes that she heard inside their classroom and 7-year-
old Vic shared anecdotes about how laughter was shared in
the home and related that he and his older sisters would often
have a competition as to who could laugh the loudest:
We have a competition as to who could laugh the loudest
[so who is winning?] My sister and myself. Before during
the olden days, women would cover their mouths with a
little fan when they laugh. We should actually change our
national ﬂower from sampaguita to kalachuchi now, because
now women laugh like this HAHAHAHA, very loud!
Capacity for Empathy
Ten out of the 22 gifted children (7 from the private
school) were described by their parents as having strong
capacity for empathy. The mother of 6-year-old Kitty related:
Sometimes, even when I am just tired or sleepy, she would
ask, “Mommy, why?” Then I would reply, “What do you
mean, why?” “You look sad.” Then I would explain that “No,
I’m just tired.” Then she’d say “Mommy, I’ll comfort you. Or
I’ll kiss you.”
The mother of 8-year-old Ysabella has likewise noted her
strong powers of observation and her being able to keenly
discern other people’s sentiments and her tendency to extend
She knows when I’m going through something. She would
stop by and ask, “Are you ok mommy?” Like a counselor,
she would ask, “Do you want to talk about it?” Her sense
of empathy and compassion are just outstanding. She’s also
a keen observer. I think she has a very tender heart . . . she
knows how to actively listen to people. And she would really
follow up on things that were shared with or disclosed to
her . . . she’d make a good counselor.
Manifestations of Sensitivities, Overexcitabilities,
and Subsequent Misdiagnosis
On Psychomotor OEs
Four children from the public-school setting were
described by both parents and teachers to be extremely
energetic: 6-year-old Ricky, 7-year-old Gerald, and 8-year-
old Lenny, who were characterized to be malikot (moves
around a lot); 4-year-old Jaycee was likewise described by
his mother, who expects him to be well behaved given his
high level of intelligence, as being in trouble a lot.
Seven of the 22 children were described as having psy-
chomotor excitability by their parents. Three boys coming
from the private-school sector were diagnosed as having
probable attention-deﬁcit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by
developmental pediatricians: Adrian, Jaydee, and Donnie.
Further psychological testing demonstrated their very high
level of intelligence. When subsequently exposed to a less
traditional school environment and provided with challeng-
ing tasks in their subject areas, their behaviors changed
drastically. Surprisingly, their hyperactivity seemed to have
GIFTED FILIPINO CHILDREN—SOCIOAFFECTIVE ISSUES 245
Apart from kinesthetic excitabilities, some of the children
likewise manifested sensitivities to sounds, such as 7-year-
old JP’s, who used to cover his ears as a child whenever
there were loud noises in his surroundings. His developmen-
tal pediatrician noted that he may have Asperger’s syndrome,
noting his difﬁculties when it came to forming friendships
and his rigid adherence to rules. There also were sensi-
tivities to food demonstrated by some of the children, as
seen, for example with 9-year-old Donnie, who refused
to eat anything solid until he was 4.5 years of age. Six-
year-old Kitty, on the other hand, was described by her
mother as having sensitivity to texture and was said to
be irked by the labels in her clothing; hence, her mother
would painstakingly remove them before she would put
Heightened Multifaceted Sensitivities to Social
Issues and Concerns
When the tsunami disaster struck, 7-year-old JP was said
to be deeply affected by it and his classmates would actu-
ally tease him about it, making him extremely upset. JP’s
mother observed that it was essential that a supportive adult
was present to explain things to him in order for him to avoid
drawing false conclusions based on his fears.
Eight-year-old Ysabella, on the other hand, was said to be
highly disturbed by Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
(Frank, 1993) and even took it upon herself to read up and
research the Holocaust on her own initiative, aghast by what
was allowed to happen not too long ago in history. Ysabella’s
parents recounted her reaction after reading the book:
Ysabella’s mother: When she read Anne Frank . . . it was
a very emotionally heavy book, she even watched the ﬁlm
adaptation. Her empathy was outstanding. She studied the
Jewish culture, the war. . . .
Ysabella’s father: The Holocaust.
Ysabella’s mother. The Holocaust. My husband, her papa,
really made time for long discussions about it that normal
kids would not ordinarily think about. For me what is more
signiﬁcant is the way she views the environment, what’s
going on in the world around her.
The mother of 7-year-old Gerald (from the public-school
setting) also mentioned that they talked about the World
Trade Center incident in detail:
When the world trade center incident happened, they were
like . . . they were affected by it. That there were children
who lost their parents. They said they couldn’t imagine that.
And they were wondering how people could say there’s
something good about that. I told them that with the World
Trade Center, it is hard to tell the people who lost their
loved ones that there’s something good about it, because they
were just working there when it happened. But now, the New
Yorkers, they try to ﬁnd more time with their families. They
ﬁnd time to bond whereas before it was just work, work,
It is to be noted though that such concerns, though apparent
to the 6–9 age group, do not appear to be as signiﬁcant to the
4–5 age group, possibly because of the greater exposure and
deeper cognitive understanding that may be expected from
the older age group.
There also were differences with the gifted children
from the public-school group compared to the private-school
group when it came to concerns about social issues. Though
the gifted children from the private-school setting articu-
lated greater concerns about tsunamis, ﬂoods, poverty, and
people who live in squatters’ area (as seen in the case
of 9-year-old Donnie, who related that if he had a lot
of money he would purchase properties and give them
to the poor)—these remote thoughts actually were expe-
rienced by most of the public-school children, who, by
virtue of their ﬁnancial inadequacies, lived in squatters’
areas and had no lands of their own. If a certain form of
reality is “too much with us” it could be the case that
it is often taken for granted, given its lack of novelty—
which could explain the lack of articulations in this regard
by the public-school parents and the children themselves,
because they were living in the impoverished conditions that
were only imagined by the children from the private-school
Perception Towards Self
Eighteen out of the 22 students regarded themselves as intel-
ligent and articulated this to be the best thing they like about
themselves. There appeared to be a matter-of-fact accep-
tance of their skills and talents. When 9-year-old Gabrielle
was asked how she felt about being smart, she replied “It’s
OK” and when further probed as to what traits she pos-
sessed that made her regard herself as intelligent, she merely
shrugged and stated, “I just know.” Two of the children from
the public-school group tempered their “yes” responses to
being smart by claiming “hindi naman po masyado (I am
smart but not that smart).” Jayjay, a 5-year-old boy from pub-
lic school, on the other hand, stated that he is not intelligent
since “hindi ko alam lahat (I don’t know everything).” Eight-
year-old Ysabella and 9-year-old Jody, on the other hand,
refused to answer what they believed to be their best quality
or the best thing about them because, according to Ysabella:
“I don’t really compliment myself much. I don’t really think
that . . . I don’t know. I let other people describe me, instead
of me describing.”
Several children from the private-school sector (6 out of
the 11) mentioned being good-looking or attractive as one
of the things they liked best about themselves. Six-year-old
Kitty, in a matter-of-fact fashion and with a comfortable air
of self-assuredness, announced, “I am beautiful and I like
art” and on another occasion she related “I’m smart and I do
246 R. M. GARCES-BACSAL
a lot of art, I easily learn them.” Pink Princess, on the other
hand, while acknowledging her beauty, was said to prefer
being intelligent over being beautiful, as was related by her
mother. Seven-year-old Gerald from the public-school group
also articulated, when asked what he liked best about him-
self: “It can’t be beauty . . . because it will rot and will fade
when you’re old.” When asked, “So what do you like best
about yourself then?” he replied, “My intelligence.”
It is noteworthy, though, that the rest of the public-school
children did not mention anything about their looks, in con-
trast to the private-school kids, who seem to regard this as
salient or signiﬁcant in their realities given the fact that they
mentioned it without being prompted or asked about it.
Out of the 22 children, 5 expressed some measure of dis-
satisfaction with some aspect of themselves or their body
image. Seven-year-old JP (from the private-school group)
noted that when he grows up he wishes to lose his baby fat
and to be more ﬁt, and Donnie expressed his irritation when-
ever he was teased by his classmates about his small Chinese
eyes. Six-year-old Katrize, on the other hand, related that she
does not particularly like her ears or her nose:
Whenever I am at home, they always call me ﬂat-nosed
(pango) and they also call me dwarf (duwende) because
of my huge ears. I just tell them that what can I do, my
mother liked dwarves when she was pregnant (pinaglihi ako
sa duwende) even though it’s not really true.
Two of the children from the private school conveyed
their issues related to wearing eyeglasses. Both 8-year-
old Ysabella and 7-year-old Amelia regard wearing their
eyeglasses as a burden, a sentiment that was echoed and
observed by their parents. Ysabella even articulated that she
felt sad about wearing eyeglasses: “I used to be a little sad
that I had to wear glasses. Because I thought it will prevent
me from swimming . . . soccer . . . running around. Stuff like
Over and above what it does to their appearance, the
wearing of eyeglasses appeared to be a marked hindrance to
alternative forms of self-deﬁnition, particularly for Ysabella,
who wanted to appear “sporty” for a time. Her mother
Before she wanted to play soccer but she feels that wearing
glasses is a hindrance . . . that is one of her dilemmas that
her eyesight is always a hindrance . . . she wants to go into
ballet, but she backed out on her own because as she stated,
‘a ballerina doesn’t wear eyeglasses.’ She loves to dance,
that’s what she really likes, but she feels awkward with the
Dreams and Aspirations of the Child
Ten out of the 22 children aspired to become doctors, with
6 out of the 10 coming from the public-school group. They
explained that they wanted to be of service to people. The
responses likewise indicated that the majority of those who
wished to become doctors belonged to the 8–9 age group.
The professions that received the second-highest rank
among the public-school group were teacher, pilot, and
scientist, whereas for the private-school sector the second-
highest rank professions were being a writer and an artist.
The public-school orientation appeared more pragmatic and
practical in nature, as opposed to the private-school group,
who could afford to indulge in the humanities and cre-
ative areas, which are not considered the most stable of
There also were indications of a disparity between
parental expectations and the children’s own expressed
desires, as was noted by some of the parents themselves. This
was particularly striking with Ysabella, who seemed to have
misperceived her parents’ encouragement for her to try out
different forms of writing style as a sign that her parents did
not approve of her passion for literature. Ysabella’s mother
recalled that it was a very emotional moment for the both
of them as they were walking along the beach and Ysabella
found the courage to tell her that she felt very disturbed even
at the possibility of trying out something that is against her
When we were there in Zamboanga, she was crying, and say-
ing, ‘I don’t want to get into that, I want literature writing.’
She was really in tears. I told her, ‘Anak, no one is forcing
you.’ She said, ‘I want to go into literature writing, mom.’
And I was surprised, because she was very emotional. I was
actually amused but I did not show this to her, she was say-
ing: ‘I don’t wanna be like Karen Davila!1 I wanna be into
literature!’ Then I said, ‘Ok, anak. It’s a long way to go.’ It’s
like . . . you don’t even have to think about that now. But for
her it was ‘real.’
DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The research ﬁndings indicated that there were similarities
between the socioaffective issues, concerns, and character-
istics of the Filipino gifted and their Western counterparts,
such as manifestations of perfectionism, capacity for humor
and empathy, overexcitabilities and sensitivities, awareness
of social issues and concerns, and body image issues.
Similarities Across Socioaffective Issues, Concerns,
Much has been said in the literature regarding gifted chil-
dren’s very developed sense of perfectionism and limited
level of frustration tolerance when compared to the average
child’s (Porter, 2005; Reis, 2002; Schuler & Siegle, 2000).
This was linked to the disparity between the very detailed
and precise images in their heads and the probable limited
output by way of writing or drawing that they note in their
GIFTED FILIPINO CHILDREN—SOCIOAFFECTIVE ISSUES 247
works—a trait that most private-school parents in this study
used to describe their children.
Capacity for Humor
The wit and capacity for easy laughter were likewise evi-
dent among the gifted children in this study. In the literature,
gifted boys have been found to cope better with their gift-
edness if they also have a good sense of humor. Luftig and
Nichols (1989, as cited by Rimm, 2002) found evidence that
“gifted boys hide or mask their giftedness by being funny”
(Rimm, p. 14).
Sense of Empathy
The parents also characterized 10 out of the 22 gifted
children in this study as having a strong sense of empathy.
The strong link between high intelligence and empathy has
been documented in the literature (Silverman, 1993; Porter,
2005). Empathy was deﬁned by Gross (2004) as a “deep
understanding of the emotional needs of others which comes
from a capacity to ‘visualize’ affectively, the other person’s
emotional response to a given situation” (p. 253). Silverman
postulated that they could actually “feel the feelings within
themselves” (p. 253). Shore and Kanevsky (1993) also noted
that gifted children were less egocentric than their age peers
and that egocentricity did not mean selﬁshness but rather the
capacity to take note of others’ emotions and actually deduce
Overexcitabilities and Sensitivities
One child in the study (7-year-old JP) was observed to
show Asperger-like qualities. Neihart (2000) did a study
on gifted children with Asperger’s syndrome and proposed
guidelines to differentiate characteristics of giftedness from
the characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome—an area of
research that is yet to be explored in the Philippine context.
Among the 22 case studies, 7 were characterized as hav-
ing psychomotor excitability by their parents, and 3 were
even diagnosed to have probable ADHD by developmental
pediatricians. The dangers of such misdiagnosis were quite
apparent because, as pointed out by Hartnett, Nelson, and
Rinn (2004), “clearly, the psychomotor overexcitability of
the gifted child could be labeled as ‘hyperactive’ by the
observer uninformed of some gifted children’s tendencies”
It is not uncommon, then, according to O’Connor (2002),
that many gifted children go through very high levels of
intensity and sensitivity that may appear to be qualitatively
different from their peers; hence, such peculiarities among
the gifted often have been misconstrued as manifestations
of hyperactivity symptomatic of ADHD, and there have
been numerous occasions of misdiagnosis among the gifted
(Hartnett et al., 2004; Moon, 2002). Dabrowski (1964) stated
that a child with psychomotor hyperexcitability may get into
conﬂicts with himself and with others because excitabilities
extend far beyond what is appropriate to the stimuli of his
Sensitivity to Social Issues and Concerns
Evidently, this is a characteristic that is likewise shared by
the Filipino gifted children in this study, particularly for the
6–9 age group. Their parents could not overemphasize the
value of discussing major issues that affect their children’s
thoughts and emotions. Lovecky (1998) even mentioned that
it may be difﬁcult for children to ask questions that they feel
adults are not ready for or are unwilling to discuss; hence,
emotional support from adults who can empathize with their
feelings and emotions is crucial.
The literature also clearly indicates that gifted children
manifest this strong sensitivity to social issues (Gross, 2004;
Mendaglio, 2003; Porter, 2005) and to show a very deep con-
cern regarding what is going on outside of their own little
worlds and empathize and feel profound compassion (Gross,
2004; Porter, 2005). Mendaglio referred to this as multi-
faceted sensitivity, wherein awareness of thoughts, feelings,
and behaviors of self and others is foremost and salient.
On Body Image and Appearance
Five out of 22 children expressed some discontent about
how they look. This was particularly evident among two
gifted girls who needed to wear eyeglasses. This concern
about one’s appearance has been found to be common among
gifted girls as well in the literature because uncomfortable
peer pressures were found to be dissipated for girls “if they
have the good fortune to be pretty” (Rimm, 2002, p. 15) and
for gifted boys if they happen to be excellent in sports.
Though there were evident similarities, there were also areas
in which the socioaffective concerns, issues, and character-
istics differed markedly. One was the very evident inﬂuence
of family relationships in the affective states of the gifted
children (consistently mentioned as part of what makes them
happy, sad, angry, or afraid).
On Family Relationships
Though close family ties are likewise apparent in other
Asian contexts (Chan, 2005a; Cheung & McBride-Chang,
2008), there is something quite distinctive in the Filipino
culture if one perceives family relationships from within
the kapwa framework, which refers to the union of one-
self with others in a shared rather than separate identity
(Enriquez, 1982). The value pakikipagkapwa-tao is believed
to be among the most salient virtues in the Filipino culture—
enabling even third-degree levels of kinship to be as close as
ﬁrst-degree ones; hence the high value afforded to extended
248 R. M. GARCES-BACSAL
family networks (Enriquez). This was highlighted by Castillo
(1979, as quoted by Jones, 1995) who characterized the
Filipino household as residentially nuclear but functionally
extended. Hence, family is not only deﬁned by the mother,
father, and siblings but includes the grandparents, aunts,
uncles, and cousins.
This has very clear implications for professionals who are
working with ethnically diverse groups because the notion
of achievement as an individual endeavor or striving may
not be appropriate for the Filipino gifted whose success is
inextricably linked to the family’s well-being and notions of
achievement. Dunn, Milgram, and Price (1993) pointed out
that when a member of the family has any kind of intellec-
tual accomplishment, all of the neighbors are made aware of
it and the local paper may even publish the story. The fam-
ily, then, is not perceived so much as outside of or merely an
extension of the self but rather as a signiﬁcant part of one’s
conception of the self.
Sense of Pride in One’s Intelligence
Another area in which the socioaffective concerns were
found to be different for the Filipino gifted was the evident
pride the gifted children took in the knowledge of being intel-
ligent. This is in stark contrast to the Western reality whereby
there is a greater need to submerge one’s talents or con-
ceal one’s intellectual abilities (Gross, 2002; Rimm, 2002) in
order to belong or ﬁt in. According to Neihart (1998), though
there is no singular, all-encompassing deﬁnition of the self
there is consensus that it comprises the core of the person-
ality inclusive of “identity, self-esteem, and what one brings
to the world” (Neihart, 1998, p. 187). Among the gifted chil-
dren who may have difﬁculties integrating socially because
they are different, some may have learned to “give up some
of their true self in exchange for social acceptance” (Neihart,
1998, p. 187), particularly if their gifts are ignored, denied or
rejected by the people around them.
The research ﬁndings indicate that this is not true in the
Philippine context given the premium placed on education in
the Filipino culture (Dunn et al., 1993)—at least in the 4–9
age group. Instead of concealing their gifts or being ashamed
of them or even minimizing them in order to gain a sense of
belonging, there appeared to be a matter-of-fact acceptance
of their skills and talents. The cultural context plays a huge
factor in this, because the reverence for education could be
explained by their perceiving this as a means to enhance their
social status and as a tool through which they could raise
their entire family circumstances (Dunn et al.). A summary
of the highlighted differences in major themes according to
school type and age group is provided in Table 2.
Highlighted Differences in Major Themes According to School Type and Age Group
Major themes Private school Public school 4–6 age group 7–9 age group
Centered around family,
privileges, material things
provided by parents
Mostly centered around
Family relationships are more
Greater mention of peer
groups in addition to
Highly evident in all children
across all age groups
Not very apparent across all
More concerned with play
(4–5); 6- to 7-year-olds are
described as more
More concerned with peer
Capacity for humor Seen across all age groups Seen across all age groups Though the 4- to 5-year-olds
are not described to be such,
the 6-year-olds manifest this
More evident among this age
Seen among 7 out of 11 students Three out of the 11 were
described as empathetic
Three boys were diagnosed to
have probable ADHD; tactile,
food, and hearing sensitivities
were also apparent
Four children were described
by parents to be extremely
Social issues and
Greater concerns articulated
about tsunami, ﬂoods, poverty
These concerns are actually
“lived” by most of the
related to social issues and
Shows greater sensitivity to
social issues and concerns
General positive regard felt about
their intelligence; 6 out of the
11 students also mentioned
being good-looking or
General positive regard felt
about their intelligence; no
mention about their looks
Not very apparent in this age
Apparent dissatisfaction with
body image (wearing
eyeglasses, being a little
aspirations of the
Articulated wanting to be an
artist and a writer in addition
to being a doctor
Six out of the 11 want to
become doctors; more
pragmatic ideals noted
n/a Articulated the desire to
become a doctor
GIFTED FILIPINO CHILDREN—SOCIOAFFECTIVE ISSUES 249
This brings into question the conclusion of Robinson et
al. (2002) that ethnically different children may have fam-
ily and peers who may “actively discourage or passively
fail to support their optimal talent development” and that
they may “retreat from some opportunities because they
ﬁnd too few of their own group present” (p. 270), indicat-
ing that the generalization may not apply across all ethni-
cally diverse groups, further highlighting the signiﬁcance of
This becomes even more important in light of the 1965
Immigration Act wherein 40% of the documented immigra-
tion to the United States is said to have come from Asia, with
the Philippines being the largest source, comprising nearly
a quarter of the total Asian immigration and the second
largest source of all immigration, said to be surpassed only
by Mexico (Espiritu, 2003). Moreover, Filipinos who ini-
tially were found to be underrepresented in gifted programs
in the United States are now believed to be overrepresented
(Saccuzzo & Johnson, 1995). Looking closely at the table
presented by Kitano and Dijosia (2002), which indicated
the percentage of district students certiﬁed as gifted by an
American Psychological Association subgroup, there were
306 certiﬁed Filipino students (out of 1,093 tested) iden-
tiﬁed to be gifted—the largest number when compared to
Chinese, Japanese, Asian Indian, Cambodian (and other)
subgroups. Yet despite the ﬁgures, the socioemotional and
learning needs of Filipino gifted learners are yet to be found
in the literature. It is hoped that a clearer understanding of
the socioaffective concerns of children from other countries
will be explored in future research.
1. Karen Davila is a famous journalist in the Philippines.
Dr. Myra Garces-Bacsal would like to express a special
thanks to Roel and Myka Bacsal for their support and encour-
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Interview Protocol for Students (the actual interview con-
tained more questions but for the purposes of publication,
it is limited to the sections covered in this article)
1. Tell me about yourself. Tell me about your day.
2. How was your day in school?
3. Tell me about the favorite things that you do. What do
you usually do after school?
4. Tell me more about your family.
5. Tell me about a happy memory that you had. How
about a sad one? How about a memory when you were
mad? How about a time when you were scared?
6. What usually makes you smile and really happy? What
about the things that make you sad? Things that make
7. What do you like best about yourself? How about the
least thing that you like about yourself?
8. What do you wish to be when you grow up? If you
could be anything you wanted to be when you grow
up, what would that be?
Interview Protocol for Parents (the actual interview con-
tained more questions but for the purposes of publi-
cation, it is limited to the sections covered in this
1. Tell me about (name of child) What is she like?
2. What is she like in school? How would you describe
her? How do her teachers usually describe her?
3. How about at home? How would you describe her?
What is she like with siblings?
4. What are some of the favorite things that she likes to
5. What are some of the things that make your child
happy? What are some of the things that make [name
of child] sad? Angry? Scared?
6. What are some of the things that affect her greatly?
7. Have you observed any issues/difﬁculties that your
child may be struggling with?
8. What do you think your child wants to be when she/he
Rhoda Myra Garces-Bacsal has a PhD in clinical psychology with a minor in developmental psychology and spe-
cialization in gifted education. Dr. Garces-Bacsal is a lecturer at the National Institute of Education in Singapore.
Her research interests include socioaffective needs of intellectually/academically gifted, family relationships of the
gifted, educational concerns of the gifted, creatively gifted children and their families, and indigenous approaches
utilized by family and educators in nurturing giftedness. E-mail: email@example.com
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