Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 1743–1757 | Cite as

Transactional Relations between Motivational Beliefs and Help Seeking from Teachers and Peers across Adolescence

Empirical Research


Adolescents often avoid seeking academic help when needed, making it important to understand the motivational processes that support help seeking behavior. Using expectancy-value theory as a framework, this study examined transactional relations between motivational beliefs (i.e., academic self-concept or academic importance) and seeking help from teachers and peers across adolescence (i.e., from approximately age 12 to 17 years). Data were collected from 1479 adolescents (49% female; 61.9% African American, 31.2% European American, 6.9% other race). Analyses were conducted with cross-lagged panel models using three waves of data from seventh, ninth, and eleventh grade. Results indicated that both academic self-concept and academic importance were associated with increases in teacher help seeking in earlier adolescence, but were associated only with increases in peer help seeking in later adolescence. Help-seeking behavior positively influenced motivational beliefs, with teacher help seeking increasing academic self-concept earlier in adolescence and peer help seeking increasing academic importance later in adolescence. These transactional relations differed by adolescents’ prior achievement and racial background, but not by adolescents’ gender.


Help seeking Motivational beliefs Expectancy-value theory Peers Teachers 



This research used the MADIC Study of Adolescent Development in Multiple Contexts, 1991–1998 (Log No. 01066) dataset (made accessible in 2000; numeric data files). These data were collected by Jacqueline Eccles and Arnold Sameroff (principal investigators) and are available through the Henry A. Murray Research Archive of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (distributor).

Authors’ Contributions

JA conceived of the study, performed the statistical analysis, and drafted the manuscript; MW was involved in the study’s design and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


The original data collection was funded by the MacArthur Foundation and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant ROI HD33437.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

A review conducted by the Institutional Review Board approved the study to be consistent with the protection of the rights and welfare of human subjects.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual adolescents included in the study and from their guardians.


  1. Ahmed, W., Minnaert, A., van der Werf, G., & Kuyper, H. (2009). Perceived social support and early adolescents’ achievement: The mediational roles of motivational beliefs and emotions. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 36–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191–215.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Baraldi, A. N., & Enders, C. K. (2010). An introduction to modern missing data analyses. Journal of School Psychology, 48, 5–37.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78, 246–263.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Brechwald, W. A., & Prinstein, M. J. (2011). Beyond homophily: A decade of advances in understanding peer influence processes. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 166–179.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, B. B. (2004). Adolescents’ relationships with peers. In R. Lerner & L. Steinberg​ (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent psychology (2nd ed., pp. 363–394). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Butler, R. (1998). Determinants of help seeking: Relations between perceived reasons for classroom help-avoidance and help-seeking behaviors in an experimental context. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 630–643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Apfel, N., & Brzustoski, P. (2009). Recursive processes in self-affirmation: intervening to close the minority achievement gap. Science, 324, 400–403.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Cole, D. A., & Maxwell, S. E. (2003). Testing mediational models with longitudinal data: Questions and tips in the use of structural equation modeling. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 112, 558–577.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Du, J., Xu, J., & Fan, X. (2016). Investigating factors that influence students’ help seeking in math homework: A multilevel analysis. Learning and Individual Differences, 48, 29–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Durik, A. M., Vida, M., & Eccles, J. S. (2006). Task values and ability beliefs as predictors of high school literacy choices: A developmental analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 382–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eccles, J. S. (2009). Who am I and what am I going to do with my life? Personal and collective identities as motivators of action. Educational Psychologist, 44, 78–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eccles, J. S., Midgley, C., Wigfield, A., Buchanan, C. M., Reuman, D., Flanagan, C., & Mac Iver, D. (1993). Development during adolescence: The impact of stage-environment fit on young adolescents’ experiences in schools and in families. American Psychologist, 48, 90–101.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Eccles, J. S., & Roeser, R. W. (2013). Schools, academic motivation, and stage-environment fit. In R. M. Lerner, & L. Steinberg (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent psychology. 2nd edn. (pp. 125–153). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eccles, J. S., & Wang, M. T. (2016). What motivates females and males to pursue careers in mathematics and science? International Journal of Behavioral Development, 40, 100–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eccles, J. S., & Wigfield, A. (1995). In the mind of the actor: The structure of adolescents’ achievement task values and expectancy-related beliefs. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 215–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Elbaum, B., & Vaughn, S. (2003). For which students with learning disabilities are self-concept interventions effective? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36, 101–108.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Fuller-Rowell, T. E., & Doan, S. N. (2010). The social costs of academic success across ethnic groups. Child Development, 81, 1696–1713.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Guay, F., Marsh, H. W., & Boivin, M. (2003). Academic self-concept and academic achievement: Developmental perspectives on their causal ordering. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 124–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 6, 1–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hulleman, C. S., Godes, O., Hendricks, B. L., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2010). Enhancing interest and performance with a utility value intervention. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 880–895.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hurd, N. M., Sánchez, B., Zimmerman, M. A., & Caldwell, C. H. (2012). Natural mentors, racial identity, and educational attainment among African American adolescents: Exploring pathways to success. Child Development, 83, 1196–1212.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Kessels, U., & Steinmayr, R. (2013). Macho-man in school: Toward the role of gender role self-concepts and help seeking in school performance. Learning and Individual Differences, 23, 234–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kiefer, S. M., & Shim, S. S. (2016). Academic help seeking from peers during adolescence: The role of social goals. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 42, 80–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. LeTendre, G. K., Hofer, B. K., & Shimizu, H. (2003). What is tracking? Cultural expectations in the United States, Germany, and Japan. American Educational Research Journal, 40, 43–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lynch, M., & Cicchetti, D. (1997). Children’s relationships with adults and peers: An examination of elementary and junior high school students. Journal of School Psychology, 35, 81–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marchand, G., & Skinner, E. A. (2007). Motivational dynamics of children’s academic help-seeking and concealment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 65–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Marks, H. M. (2000). Student engagement in instructional activity: Patterns in the elementary, middle, and high school years. American Educational Research Journal, 37, 153–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Murayama, K., & Elliot, A. J. (2009). The joint influence of personal achievement goals and classroom goal structures on achievement-relevant outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 432–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Murray, M. S., Neal-Barnett, A., Demmings, J. L., & Stadulis, R. E. (2012). The acting White accusation, racial identity, and anxiety in African American adolescents. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 26, 526–531.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Muthén, L., & Muthén, B. (2012). Mplus user’s guide. 7th edn. Los Angeles, CA: Author.Google Scholar
  32. Neal-Barnett, A., Stadulis, R., Singer, N., Murray, M., & Demmings, J. (2010). Assessing the effects of experiencing the acting White accusation. The Urban Review, 42, 102–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nelson-Le Gall, S. (1985). Help-seeking behavior in learning. Review of Research in Education, 12, 55–90.Google Scholar
  34. Newman, R. S. (2000). Social influences on the development of children’s adaptive help seeking: The role of parents, teachers, and peers. Developmental Review, 20, 350–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Newman, R. S., & Schwager, M. T. (1995). Students’ help seeking during problem solving: Effects of grade, goal, and prior achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 32, 352–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Prentice, D. A., & Carranza, E. (2002). What women and men should be, shouldn’t be, are allowed to be, and don’t have to be: The contents of prescriptive gender stereotypes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26, 269–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Reddy, R., Rhodes, J. E., & Mulhall, P. (2003). The influence of teacher support on student adjustment in the middle school years: A latent growth curve study. Development and Psychopathology, 15, 119–138.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Roeser, R. W., & Eccles, J. S. (1998). Adolescents’ perceptions of middle school: Relation to longitudinal changes in academic and psychological adjustment. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 8, 123–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ryan, A. M. (2001). The peer group as a context for the development of young adolescent motivation and achievement. Child Development, 72, 1135–1150.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Ryan, A. M., Gheen, M. H., & Midgley, C. (1998). Why do some students avoid asking for help? An examination of the interplay among students’ academic efficacy, teachers’ social–emotional role, and the classroom goal structure. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 528–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ryan, A. M., Hicks, L., & Midgley, C. (1997). Social goals, academic goals, and avoiding seeking help in the classroom. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 17, 152–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ryan, A. M., Patrick, H., & Shim, S.-O. (2005). Differential profiles of students identified by their teacher as having avoidant, appropriate, or dependent help-seeking tendencies in the classroom. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 275–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ryan, A. M., & Pintrich, P. R. (1997). “Should I ask for help?” The role of motivation and attitudes in adolescents’ help seeking in math class. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 329–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ryan, A. M., Pintrich, P. R., & Midgley, C. (2001). Avoiding seeking help in the classroom: Who and why? Educational Psychology Review, 13, 93–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ryan, A. M., & Shim, S. S. (2012). Changes in help seeking from peers during early adolescence: Associations with changes in achievement and perceptions of teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 1122–1134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ryan, A. M., Shim, S. S., Lampkins-Uthando, S. A., Thompson, G. N., & Kiefer, S. M. (2009). Do gender differences in help avoidance vary by ethnicity? An examination of African American and European American students during early adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 45, 1152–1163.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Ryan, A. M., & Shin, H. (2011). Help-seeking tendencies during early adolescence: An examination of motivational correlates and consequences for achievement. Learning and Instruction, 21, 247–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Satorra, A., & Bentler, P. M. (2001). A scaled difference chi-square test statistic for moment structure analysis. Psychometrika, 66, 507–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schenke, K., Lam, A. C., Conley, A. M., & Karabenick, S. A. (2015). Adolescents’ help seeking in mathematics classrooms: Relations between achievement and perceived classroom environmental influences over one school year. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 41, 133–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Shim, S. S., Rubenstein, L. D., & Drapeau, C. W. (2016). When perfectionism is coupled with low achievement: The effects on academic engagement and help seeking in middle school. Learning and Individual Differences, 45, 237–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Steinberg, L., & Monahan, K. C. (2007). Age differences in resistance to peer influence. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1531–1543.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  52. Steinberg, L., & Silk, J. S. (2002). Parenting adolescents. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook on parenting (pp. 103–134). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Vol. 1.Google Scholar
  53. Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2007). A question of belonging: race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 82–96.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2011). A brief social-belonging intervention improves academic and health outcomes of minority students. Science, 331, 1447–1451.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Wang, M. T. (2012). Educational and career interests in math: A longitudinal examination of the links between classroom environment, motivational beliefs, and interests. Developmental Psychology, 48, 1643–1657.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Wang, M. T., & Degol, J. (2013). Motivational pathways to STEM career choices: Using expectancy-value perspective to understand individual and gender differences in STEM fields. Developmental Review, 33, 304–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wang, M. T., & Sheikh-Khalil, S. (2014). Does parental involvement matter for student achievement and mental health in high school? Child Development, 85, 610–625.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Wentzel, K. R. (2009). Peers and academic functioning at school. In K. H. Rubin, W. M. Bukowski, & B. Laursen (Eds.), Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups (pp. 531–547). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  59. Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2002). The development of competence beliefs, expectancies for success, and achievement values from childhood through adolescence. In A. Wigfield, & J. S. Eccles (Eds.), Development of achievement motivation (pp. 91–120). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wong, C. A., Eccles, J. S., & Sameroff, A. (2003). The influence of ethnic discrimination and ethnic identification on African American adolescents’ school and socioemotional adjustment. Journal of Personality, 71, 1197–1232.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Yeager, D. S., & Walton, G. M. (2011). Social-psychological interventions in education: They’re not magic. Review of Educational Research, 81, 267–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zusho, A., & Barnett, P. A. (2011). Personal and contextual determinants of ethnically diverse female high school students’ patterns of academic help seeking and help avoidance in English and mathematics. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 36, 152–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology in EducationUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations