Ambivalence about Knowing

Timothy and Annie
  • Karen Zelan
Part of the Perspectives in Developmental Psychology book series (PDPS)


My purpose in devoting this chapter to 9-year-old Timothy’s reasons for rejecting reading and 7-year-old Annie’s reasons for rejecting math is to show that similar psychological processes were at work to explain their learning problems and their treatment progress. Both children were brilliant and exercised what Elkind (1987) calls a “structural imperative” in conflict-free subject areas but were nonetheless underachieving in one particular subject. Tim often appeared alexic or dyslexic, whereas Annie appeared to suffer from acalculia. With psychotherapeutic treatment, the two children overcame their learning problems and sometimes even excelled in the subjects they had avoided before. Their progress in therapy reveals how partial understanding — “transitional” thought — creates the necessity to reject school learning but permits especially the brilliant child in psychotherapy to surpass the confusion that contributes to his or her thinking process.


Science Lesson Math Problem School Failure Treatment Progress Marital Problem 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Zelan
    • 1
  1. 1.BerkeleyUSA

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