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Wexler, F. (1969). The Antiachiever: Dynamics and Treatment of a Special Clinical Problem. Psychoanal. Rev., 56C(3):461-467.

(1969). Psychoanalytic Review, 56C(3):461-467

The Antiachiever: Dynamics and Treatment of a Special Clinical Problem

Frank Wexler, Ph.D.

Considerable attention has been given to the clinical aspects of problems in student learning and achievement. Pressure for the study of these problems has risen as an increasing number of clinical referrals are made in order to cope with school disability; parents today have become increasingly anxious about their children's inability to succeed. Many terms have been used to identify the difficulty, particularly in the area of academic achievement. Learning block, potential dropout, work inhibition, learning disability have been offered as descriptive labels. Perhaps the most widely used term has been that of underachiever, proposed by Kornrich8 in 1965.

The underachiever has been viewed as expressing, through his poor academic work, unconscious hostility towards or unconscious protest against parental pressure, or unconscious striving for individuality.7 Other views of unconscious determinism in underachievement point to masochistic attitudes and anal fixations.9 While this emphasis on underachievement as a symptom of an unconscious need has been useful in therapy, an image of the underachieving child has emerged which may in an increasing number of cases limit our insight into a specially virulent form of underachievement, i.e., the antiachiever.

For just as distinctions must be made in our understanding of delinquency, between delinquent acts based on neurotic symptoms or psychopathy or schizophrenia, so is it necessary to distinguish and delineate the existence of more than one type of underachievement.

The aim of this paper is to describe and clarify the clinical entity which I have classified as the antiachiever.

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