Coping with academic failure, a study of Dutch children with dyslexia

Dyslexia. 2008 Nov;14(4):314-33. doi: 10.1002/dys.352.


This paper reports the results of a study of strategies that Dutch children with dyslexia employ to cope with recurrent academic failure. All of the students in the study had developed strategies for protecting their self-esteem. Using Harter's theory of coping with discrepancies between performance and standards, we distinguish four strategies: (1) working hard and committing to standards, (2) lowering standards, (3) seeking support from significant others (i.e. parents and teachers), and (4) avoiding comparisons with significant others (i.e. peers). Although self-talk emerged as an important component of all four strategies, it was employed both adaptively (e.g. to preserve the students' belief in their own academic capacities) and maladaptively (e.g. to devalue the importance of learning). The students relied most strongly on support from their parents; teachers and peers were more likely to be seen as threats to self-esteem. Strategies of teachers and parents to encourage adaptive coping with recurrent academic failure are confirming the student's self-worth, explaining dyslexia, showing faith in the student's capacities, fostering adaptive self-talk, providing educational treatment, and preventing teasing and bullying. Besides that, teachers and parents should cooperate.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Child
  • Comprehension
  • Culture
  • Dyslexia / diagnosis
  • Dyslexia / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Netherlands
  • Peer Group
  • Reading
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support