University of Louisville

Poster Title

Characterizing Achievement Motivation in Young Children in Head Start

Institution

University of Louisville

Abstract

Children's motivation has been described by researchers as either mastery- or performance-oriented. Mastery-oriented individuals tend to view challenges with excitement, while performance-oriented individuals tend to avoid challenging situations. Understanding and identifying the origins of mastery-oriented motivation is particularly important, given that research has consistently shown this pattern to be related to academic achievement. While having an adaptive motivation pattern is important for all children, it may be especially important for children living in poverty. Given the multiple stressors in their social environment, these children may be particularly at-risk of developing a maladaptive performance orientation and are more likely to be low in persistence, high in negativity, and respond in a helpless manner when faced with a challenge. Such maladaptive characteristics are likely to place children from low-income families at risk for failure in future academic situations. The current study examines and characterizes motivation and helplessness in preschool-aged children from low-SES backgrounds. The study is part of a larger classroom-based intervention that supports adaptive motivation patterns in children attending Head Start. Data were collected for 73 children to assess their cognitive ability, as well as their motivation and helplessness. The current study examines the relations among motivation, helplessness, cognitive ability, and various demographic variables in an attempt to better characterize motivation in a low-income, preschool-aged population. The findings have important implications for designing interventions aimed at identifying and preventing maladaptive motivation patterns at an early age.

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Characterizing Achievement Motivation in Young Children in Head Start

Children's motivation has been described by researchers as either mastery- or performance-oriented. Mastery-oriented individuals tend to view challenges with excitement, while performance-oriented individuals tend to avoid challenging situations. Understanding and identifying the origins of mastery-oriented motivation is particularly important, given that research has consistently shown this pattern to be related to academic achievement. While having an adaptive motivation pattern is important for all children, it may be especially important for children living in poverty. Given the multiple stressors in their social environment, these children may be particularly at-risk of developing a maladaptive performance orientation and are more likely to be low in persistence, high in negativity, and respond in a helpless manner when faced with a challenge. Such maladaptive characteristics are likely to place children from low-income families at risk for failure in future academic situations. The current study examines and characterizes motivation and helplessness in preschool-aged children from low-SES backgrounds. The study is part of a larger classroom-based intervention that supports adaptive motivation patterns in children attending Head Start. Data were collected for 73 children to assess their cognitive ability, as well as their motivation and helplessness. The current study examines the relations among motivation, helplessness, cognitive ability, and various demographic variables in an attempt to better characterize motivation in a low-income, preschool-aged population. The findings have important implications for designing interventions aimed at identifying and preventing maladaptive motivation patterns at an early age.