Perceptions of Causes and Long Term Effects of Academic Underachievement in High IQ Adults
Favier-Townsend, Anne Madeleine Marie
A great deal is known and has been written about the difficulties that high IQ children can experience in the classroom when their special educational needs are not met. Evidence suggests that these difficulties can result in poor academic performance. This study is different from the research carried out in this field so far in that it expresses an hitherto unheard adult voice. It does so by examining the causes and the long-term effects of academic underachievement, as perceived by high IQ adults, on reflection. A mixed quantitative/qualitative methodological approach was used. 158 members of British Mensa, the High IQ Society, completed one semi-structured open ended questionnaire about their perceptions of the causes and long-term effects of their academic underachievement. A second questionnaire was completed by 50 of the previous sample who had revealed that they had reversed their underachievement in adulthood. This highlighted the differences between their educational experiences as children and as adults. It also revealed the impact that their delayed academic achievement had had on their life trajectory. Out of those 50 participants, ten took part in semi-structured one-to-one interviews which allowed for more in-depth enquiry. The conclusions of the study were that, if not nurtured, an innate ability such as a high IQ can become a disadvantage over time. It suggests that not catering for the special educational needs of high IQ children by not providing the mental stimulation they need is ‘intellectual neglect’. Such neglect, like physical and emotional neglect, may affect mental well-being in adulthood. In the study sample, most of the participants’ long-term economic and mental health had been negatively affected by their academic underachievement, even when it had been reversed in adulthood. This is an area which seems to have been little researched so far, perhaps because of the difficulty of locating high IQ underachieving adults. Yet, the issues highlighted by the research are of great importance not only to the individuals concerned but also to society. The desired outcomes of this study are that the dissemination of the results will raise awareness amongst educators and policy makers of the potential negative long-term effects of neglecting high IQ children’s intellectual needs. It will also provide a platform for further research.