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My son Abhishek, 14 years old had taken an IQ test in his school. He scored 124 in that test which he tells me is a fantastic score. However, he does not appear to do as well in his examinations and scores around the 15th rank. The people who ranked above him have scored lower on the IQ. Can you give a detailed understanding about intelligence and the factors affecting intelligence. I am also worried about the disparity in the academic results and the IQ score. Is there a cause of concern for me? Would my child face problems as he is gifted?

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Intelligence is hard to define. When several people in a group speak of intelligence, they are likely to nod knowingly as if they share a common definition. However, there are wide variations in the understanding of intelligence. We cannot see the underlying intellectual capacities of a person but can only infer these underlying capacities from people’s surface behaviour – on intellectual tests. One theory says that there is a broad general intelligence factor which governs behaviour. People who tend to perform well on one task will do so on others as well. Other people believe that certain factors called as primary mental abilities including verbal comprehension, word fluency, perceptual speed, memory, numerical ability, spatial ability and reasoning govern intelligence.

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An alternative way of defining intelligence is to focus on the patterns of thinking that people use when they reason and solve problems. There is more focus on how people go about solving problems and figuring out answers than how many right answers people get. There is also a focus on how these processes change as the individual matures. Differences in intelligence greatly affect people’s ability to cope with the demands of the society. This is particularly true in a technologically sophisticated, mobile and competitive society like ours. Some children learn quickly, others slowly. While high  intelligence is no guarantee of good life, low intelligence creates enormously difficult barriers to full participation in society and the attainment of a high standard of living. Genetic factors play some role in determining intelligence but the precise nature of that role is hard to establish. Environmental factors also play a substantial role. Extremely poor rearing conditions are associated with low IQ and enriched rearing and educational conditions are associated with higher IQ. Our genes endow us with a reaction range – a range of possible intellectual levels that we may attain, depending in part on the nature and quality of the environment into which we are born and within which we mature. Our genetic endowment may set limits on what we can attain, our environment may have a major influence on how much of our potential we actually realize. 

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The intellectual environment of children of professional parents is quite different from that of unskilled workers’ children. The difference is because of the involvement of mothers with the children and the provision of play material. Those with lower IQ are found to have disorganized and chaotic environments. There are no sex differences for intelligence. The overall IQ of males and females at any age are virtually the same. At the time of adolescence, girls do well on tasks that call for verbal expression and fluency, the perception of details quickly and accurately, and rapid, accurate manual movements. Boys surpass girls on spatial, numerical and mechanical tasks. As to the score of IQ that your son has got, it appears that academic achievement has only got a part bearing on the IQ score. High IQ scores like that of your son are predictive of adjustment early in life.

A child who is moderately bright is likely to be one of the class stars, but the youngster with an extraordinary high IQ may be regarded as impudent. Often it happens that extremely bright children are trapped in a world with few real peers; they are out of synch intellectually with children their own age and out of synch physically and socially with the older people who are their intellectual equals. Due to this, many children are underachievers, extremely unhappy and confused. The picture grows brighter as these youngsters mature. They are increasingly able to find settings, social groups and work in which their abilities prove a real asset. In fact, gifted adults appear to be happier and better adjusted than most other people. So, you do not have any cause for concern and your duty would be to provide your child with more competitive environment to foster his intellectual development.

Dr. Darshan Shah

Dr. Darshan Shah, a renowned psychiatrist and psychotherapist, is committed to make a difference in the area of mental health and help individuals cope with feelings and symptoms; change behavior patterns that may contribute to one’s illness and henceforth contribute to their newly improved pathway of life.