Underachieving Gifted Students: A Social Cognitive Model

Trudy L. Clemons

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships among students’ self-perception, attitudes toward school, study and organizational skills, achievement motivation, attributional style, gender, parental involvement and style, parental income and parental level of education, and students’ academic performance or achievement. Using previous research in motivation and gifted achievement a model was developed to represent the relationships among the student and parent variables and achievement. Structural equation modeling techniques were used to examine the model. Achievement levels were measured using students’ math and language arts scaled scores on the Stanford-9 achievement test, as well as their average GPA in math and language arts over three semesters. The remaining variables were measured using Likert-type survey instruments. A non-probability sample of 369 students was drawn from six school districts located in Arkansas, Utah, and Virginia. Students were sixth through ninth graders who had been identified as intellectually gifted by their school district, excluding students identified as gifted learning disabled.

Findings indicated that there were no meaningful gender differences on any of the indicator variables. Students’ socioeconomic status was found to have the strongest relationship with academic achievement followed by achievement motivation, study and organizational skills, and parental involvement and responsiveness. Students’ attitudes toward school influenced academic achievement both directly and indirectly through an influence on achievement motivation. Students’ self-perceptions had strong influences on achievement motivation and study and organizational skills. Students who had more internal attributional styles were more likely to have more positive self-perceptions about their mathematics and verbal ability. Parenting involvement was significantly correlated with attitudes toward school, socioeconomic status, and self-perceptions. Results suggest that achievement motivation does not serve as a mediator between parental involvement and style and achievement, or between socioeconomic status and achievement. Students’ attributional style was not found to influence study and organizational skills.


Clemons, T. L. (2008). Underachieving gifted students: A social cognitive model (RM08234). Storrs: University of Connecticut, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.