Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about giftedness


What causes underachievement?

Students who are gifted do not per se have a higher risk of experiencing motivational and achievement difficulties in school. A prolonged lack of academic challenge can contribute to the development of underachievement, but it is usually not the sole cause. Rather, underachievement can develop as the result of an interaction of many different factors. In the sense of a downward spiral, individual characteristics of the student as well as familial and school factors can converge in an unfavorable constellation and mutually reinforce each other in their negative effect on academic performance.

The reasons behind underachievement or the bundle of contributing factors can vary greatly from person to person. In many cases, it is not possible to clearly separate which difficulties have caused or resulted from a student’s underachievement. For example, is academic failure due to deficits in learning and study techniques, or is it the result of avoiding exertion and an inaccurate estimation of one’s own abilities? Do chronic family conflicts about school-related issues reflect a reaction to the academic achievement issues, or have they fueled them in the first place?

These reasons are why the involvement of professional psychological counseling is recommended in most cases. First, a diagnostic approach can be used to clarify whether the discrepancy between intellectual potential and school-related skills and knowledge actually meets the criteria for underachievement. In addition, with the aim of deriving appropriate measures to help the child, the problematic conditions can be explored and identified together with the child, the family, and the school.


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