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Intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientation appear to play an important role in children's cognitive development. An intrinsic orientation refers to the performance of behaviors that are motivated by interest or enjoyment in the activity itself, whereas an extrinsic orientation refers to the performance of behaviors that are motivated by external rewards or consequences (Rigby et al., 1992). Researchers consistently have found a significant relation between children's motivational orientation and both learning and academic performance (Ginsburg and Bronstein, 1993; Gottfried, 1990; Grolnick and Ryan, 1989; Harter and Connell, 1984). Specifically, children whose academic behavior is intrinsically motivated have been found to do better academically (Ginsburg and Bronstein, 1993; Grolnick and Ryan, 1989), feel more academically competent, and perceive themselves as having greater control over their level of academic success (Harter and Connell, 1984) than do children whose academic behavior is motivated primarily by external factors such as monetary reward or threat of punishment. However, because both types of motivation may occur in the same child, depending on individual and contextual factors, it is useful to regard motivational orientation as a continuum--with a tendency more toward one direction than the other--rather than as a simple intrinsic-vs.-extrinsic dichotomy.
Interest in motivational orientation has led to investigations of environmental influences that may foster its development. A number of laboratory studies have found that aspects of the environment that can be considered controlling rather than autonomy-supporting--such as deadlines, rewards, and surveillance--tend to lower intrinsic motivation by shifting the perceived locus of causality from internal to external (see Deci and Ryan, 1985, 1987; Lepper and Greene, 1978, for reviews). In addition, there is a growing body of research on the role of socializing agents in the development of children's academic motivational orientation, which suggest that parenting style may have an important influence. Early studies by Baumrind (1967, 1971) found that preschool children of parents categorized as authoritative (i.e., encouraging children's individuality and open communication, while also exerting control by establishing and enforcing rules) were more self-motivated, achievement-oriented, and sociable in a nursery school setting than were children whose parents were categorized as either authoritarian (emphasizing obedience and conformity) or permissive (making few demands on children and not enforcing rules).
More recent studies have found that older children and adolescents whose parents employed a more autonomy-supporting childrearing style, including emphasizing independence over obedience, involving children in decision making, and responding to children's academic behaviors with encouragement, tended to receive higher grades (Dornbusch et al., 1987; Ginsburg and Bronstein, 1993; Grolnick and Ryan, 1989) and to show a more intrinsic motivational orientation (Ginsburg and Bronstein, 1993: Grolnick and Ryan, 1989). On the other hand, these studies have also found that children whose parents used childrearing approaches characterized by external control, such as dictating children's behavior, or providing high levels of surveillance or extrinsic rewards to motivate academic behavior, tended to show a more extrinsic motivational orientation and poorer academic performance. In addition, children whose parents' behavior toward them was characterized by inattention and lack of guidance in the academic sphere have also tended to receive lower grades (Dornbusch et al., 1987; Ginsburg and Bronstein, 1993) and to show a more extrinsic motivational orientation toward schoolwork (Ginsburg and Bronstein, 1993)--whereas parental interest and involvement in children's academic and social lives has been found to be related to children's higher academic achievement (Grolnick and Ryan, 1989) and more autonomous appr oach to academic work (Grolnick and Slowiaczek, 1994).
Although those studies have shown a consistent picture of the relation between parental behavior and children's motivational orientation and achievement, in each instance, the data were cross-sectional. Thus, it was not possible to consider longer-term effects of socialization or to examine the directionality of the relations that were found--e.g., whether children's previous poor performance in school and low intrinsic motivation might also lead parents to become more controlling. As well, the relations among the child outcomes warrant additional study--in particular, to investigate whether intrinsic motivation is an antecedent or consequence of academic achievement. Finally, the overall developmental process needs to be considered further, regarding whether parenting leads to one outcome via the other--i.e., whether a particular parental style fosters intrinsic motivation which in turn leads to higher achievement, or whether a parental style fosters higher achievement, which then leads children to development a more intrinsic motivational orientation to schoolwork.
A number of researchers developed path models to address some of these questions. Grolnick and Slowiaczek (1994) examined parenting in relation to children's scores on an autonomous self-regulation questionnaire, which focused on reasons for performing activities such as homework and classwork (e.g., to obtain adult approval, or for the inherent enjoyment of the activity). The authors found that parents' involvement in children's academic and social lives was related to children's autonomous self-regulation, but that self-regulation did not predict achievement. Gottfried et al. (1994, 1998), examining children's' self-reports of academic intrinsic motivation both in verbal subjects (e.g., reading and social studies) and math, found parenting practices to be a concurrent and longitudinal predictor of academic intrinsic motivation; in addition, they found that intrinsic motivation at age nine predicted both intrinsic motivation and achievement at age ten (Gottfried et al., 1994). However, because there was no measure of achievement at age nine, it was not possible to know the extent to which achievement might also have predicted intrinsic motivation over time. Furthermore, in an earlier study, Gottfried (1990) found that although children's earlier self-reported intrinsic motivation was associated with later achievement across subjects, the strongest associations were between earlier achievement and later intrinsic motivation. Thus, in considering the effects of parenting on children's academic outcomes, there remain some questions concerning the relations among the variables and the directionality of effects.
In addition, if success in school does promote the development of intrinsic motivation, the question remains as to how that occurs. One possibility is that self-perceptions of academic competence play an important role. Using children's self-report data, Harter and Connell (1984) found that among the four causal models they tested, the one that best fit their data suggested that children's perceived control over the causes of their academic successes and failures influenced achievement, that achievement influenced self-evaluations of competence, and that these self-evaluations influenced motivational orientation. However, because the data were cross-sectional, the question of directionality remained.
The present study, which is a follow-up to an investigation of family factors related to 5th graders' achievement and motivation (Ginsburg and Bronstein, 1993), represents an attempt to address some of those unresolved questions. We examined both concurrent and longer-term relations among parental behaviors, academic performance, self-perceptions of scholastic competence, and intrinsic/extrinsic motivational orientation. The longitudinal nature of the study allowed us to compare different path models of relations among the variables over time, and thus to consider the possible directionality of effects.
Furthermore, previous research examining the effects of parenting on children's motivation and achievement has focused mainly on parental behaviors directly related to cognitive stimulation or school issues (Gottfried et al., 1994, 1998; Grolnick and Slowiaczek, 1994; Leung and Kwan, 1998). In the present study, other aspects of parenting were considered that might be relevant to children's academic outcomes--specifically, general styles of parental behavior in daily interaction within the family--as well as parental behavior that was specifically in the academic domain. We reasoned that parents' engagement with their children in ways that might enhance independent thinking, problem-solving skills, and self-efficacy in everyday life also might be an important factor in fostering achievement and intrinsic motivation in school.
Another important aspect of this study was that it was focused on the adjustment to middle school, based on measures obtained the year before the transition from elementary school and two years after that transition. The middle school years are a particularly important period for the examination of factors related to motivational orientation. Whereas in the primary grades, generally children have one main teacher who knows them well and who monitors their work habits and academic performance, in middle school, they often have different teachers for different subjects, each of whom they see for 1 period per day. Because children in middle school are therefore likely to receive far less overall guidance and attention, internal motivational factors may become more relevant in relation to ongoing school success. Further, as Eccles et al. (1984) pointed out in their review of the effects of school environments on achievement motivation, classrooms in middle schools and junior high schools are generally more formal and teacher-controlled than are those in elementary school, with less opportunity for student choices and responsibility in the learning process. They concluded that a decrease in student autonomy and control in such environments was likely to lead to a decrease in intrinsic motivation. Thus, given those classroom factors during the middle-level school years, parental influences may become especially important in helping children to develop and maintain an intrinsic motivation for learning.
Based on previous theory and research, it was hypothesized that the following 3 patterns of parental …