Socio-emotional learning (SEL) and mental health preventive programs are very popular internationally; however, there is limited research evaluating their effects on gifted children. This study aimed to design a SEL-focused preventive program for gifted preschoolers and assess its effects on variables related to personal and character strengths. In addition, the relative differential impact of the program on both genders was explored. The study used an experimental design, with repeated pretest–post-test measures and a control group. A total of 120 gifted students aged 5-6 years were recruited and randomly assigned to the intervention (n = 60) and control (n = 60) groups. To measure the dependent variables, two assessment instruments were administered before and after the program. The experimental group joined a 12 one-hour lesson program based on SEL principles and used cognitive-behavior strategies. At the baseline, no significant difference between the groups in terms of self-esteem and self-perceptions (p > 0.005) were observed, except for peer relations self-perception (p = 0.028). The results revealed that the program was effective in increasing students’ self-esteem and self-perception scores; moreover, the analysis showed a significant group-by-time interaction effect in the assessed variables (p < 0.005). Regardless of the impact of the program on both genders, the change was very similar; however, the boys showed higher scores than the girls across most variables. This program significantly improved all taught skills, corroborating the findings of other studies, which support that SEL can improve children’s self-esteem. The strengths and limitations of this study and the importance of implementing prevention programs to promote socio-emotional development are also discussed.
gifted children, social-emotional learning, self-esteem, self-perception, preventive programs, gifted kindergarten students, Psychological development of the gifted