Underachievement Syndrome: A Psychological Defensive Pattern

  • Sylvia Rimm

The report entitled A Nation at Risk: The Imperative of Educational Reform was prepared by the National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983). It brought great attention to the phenomenon of underachievement among gifted children, pronouncing that fully half of gifted children do not work to their abilities in school. Unfortunately, that report did not reference any basis for the calculation of that dramatic conclusion, so the percentage of underachievers is not clear and can be calculated in many ways. Although the exact percentage is not known, most educators agree that underachievement is a major problem.

A broad definition of underachievement is a “discrepancy between children’s school performance and their abilities” (Baum, Renzulli, & Hebert, 1995; Butler-Por, 1987; Colangelo, Kerr, Christensen, & Maxey, 1993; Dowdall &Colangelo, 1982; Emerick, 1992; Kedding, 1990; Lupart &Pyryt, 1996; Richert, 1991; Rimm, 1986a, 1995; Supplee, 1990; Whitmore, 1980; Wolfe, 1991), but that broad definition only alerts one to the fact that problems exist. Not all underachievement is attributable to psychological defensive patterns, the focus of this chapter.


Birth Order Gifted Student Gifted Child Talent Development Achievement Test Score 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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  • Sylvia Rimm

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