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  1. Jean Sunde Peterson

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy1017

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Peterson, J. S. 2010. Underachievement. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.

Author Information

  1. Purdue University

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Academic underachievement is often a concern for parents and educators when classroom performance is not at an expected level. Definitions of underachievement vary, but they generally reflect discrepancy between potential and performance. Broad definitions allow flexibility in identifying underachievers; narrow definitions may preclude participation of some who could benefit from special programs (Reis & McCoach, 2000). Although underachievement can occur across a wide range of ability, it is probably most often discussed in regard to highly able students and academic work. These are the focus of the present article, which discusses the pertinent research and conceptual literature and the author's clinical observations.


  • underachievement;
  • cultural values;
  • contributing factors;
  • counseling;
  • social and emotional development