Skip to main content

Parental Autonomy Support and Student Learning Goals: A Preliminary Examination of an Intrinsic Motivation Intervention

Abstract

In a seven week quasi-experimental study, parents (n = 15) of elementary school students (n = 15) learned autonomy supportive communication techniques that included helping their children set learning goals for homework assignments. Treatment vs. comparison group (n = 30) ANCOVA analyses revealed that the parents in the treatment group perceived their children as becoming more autonomously motivated relative to the comparison group, F(1, 26) = 7.69, p < .05. Children in the treatment group reported increased positive affect toward homework relative to the comparison group, F(1,26) = 5.35, p < .05. Children did not significantly improve on general measures of self reported academic intrinsic motivation or relative autonomy. These preliminary findings suggest that autonomy supportive parenting styles may improve parent’s perceptions of their children’s autonomous motivation and children’s subjective experience of positive affect surrounding homework. In order to draw firmer conclusions about the effects of the intervention, more rigorously controlled studies will be needed in the future.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Assemany, A. E., & McIntosh, D. E. (2002). Negative treatment outcomes of behavioral parent training programs. Psychology in the Schools, 39(2), 209–219.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 1–26.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Battistich, V., Schaps, E., Watson, M., & Solomon, D. (1996). Prevention effects of the child development project: Early findings from an ongoing multisite demonstration trial. Journal of Adolescent Research, 11, 12–35.

    Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Brophy, J. (2004). Motivating students to learn (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Brophy, J. (2008). Developing students’ appreciation for what is taught. Educational Psychologist, 43(3), 132–141.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Brown, D., Pryzwansky, W. B., & Schulte, A. C. (2001). Psychological consultation: Introduction to theory and practice (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Conti, R., Amabile, T. M., & Pollak, S. (1995). The positive impact of creative activity: Effects of creative task engagement and motivational focus on college students’ learning. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21(10), 1107–1116.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Cooper, H., Lindsay, J. J., & Nye, B. (2000). Homework in the home: How student, family, and parenting-style differences relate to the homework process. Contemporary Education Psychology, 25, 464–487.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Cooper, H., Robinson, J. C., & Patall, E. A. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987–2003. Review of Education Research, 76, 1–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Corno, L. (1996). Homework is a complicated thing. Educational Researcher, 25, 27–30.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Coutts, P. M. (2004). Meanings of homework and implications for practice. Theory into Practice, 43, 182–188.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Deci, E. L., Driver, R. E., Hotchkiss, L., Robbins, R. J., & Wilson, I. M. (1993). The relation of mothers’ controlling vocalizations to children’s intrinsic motivation. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 55, 151–162.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Gottfried, A. E. (1986). Chidlren’s academic intrinsic motivation inventory. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Gottfried, A. E. (1990). Academic intrinsic motivation in young elementary school children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(3), 525–538.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Gottfried, A. E., Fleming, J. S., & Gottfried, A. W. (1994). Role of parent motivational practices in children’s academic intrinsic motivation and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86(1), 104–113.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Gottfried, A. E., Fleming, J. S., & Gottfried, A. W. (2001). Continuity of academic intrinsic motivation from childhood through late adolescence: A longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(1), 3–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Grant, H., & Dweck, C. S. (2003). Clarifying achievement goals and their impact. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(3), 541–553.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Grolnick, W. S. (2009). The role of parents in facilitating autonomous self-regulation for education. Theory and Research in Education, 7, 164–173.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Grolnick, W. S., Gurland, S. T., DeCourcey, W., & Jacob, K. (2002). Antecedents and consequences of mothers’ autonomy support: An experimental investigation. Developmental Psychology, 38(2), 143–155.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Grolnick, W. S., & Pomerantz, E. M. (2009). Issues and challenges in studying parental control: Toward a new conceptualization. Child Development Perspectives, 3, 165–170.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Gurland, S. T., & Grolnick, W. S. (2005). Perceived threat, controlling parenting, and children’s achievement orientations. Motivation and Emotion, 29, 103–121.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Harris, J. D., Gray, B. A., Rees-McGee, S., Carroll, J. L., & Zaremba, E. T. (1987). Referrals to school psychologists: A national survey. Journal of School Psychology, 25, 343–354.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Joussemet, M., Landry, R., & Koestner, R. (2008). A self-determination theory perspective on parenting. Canadian Psychology, 49, 194–200.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1996). Further examining the American dream: Differential correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22(3), 280–287.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Kenny-Benson, G. A., & Pomerantz, E. M. (2005). The role of mothers’ use of control in children’s perfectionism: Implications for the development of children’s depressive symptoms. Journal of Personality, 73, 23–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Lepper, M. R., Corpus, J. H., Henderlong, J., & Iyengar, S. S. (2005). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations in the classroom: Age differences and academic correlates. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(2), 184–196.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Lochman, J. E. (2000). Theory and empiricism in intervention research: A dialectic to be avoided. Journal of School Psychology, 38(4), 359–368.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Marcoulides, G. A., Gottfried, A. E., Gottfried, A. W., & Oliver, P. H. (2008). A latent transition analysis of academic intrinsic motivation from childhood through adolescence. Educational Research and Evaluation, 14, 411–427.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Munoz, M. A., & Vanderhaar, J. E. (2006). Literacy-embedded character education in a large urban district: Effect of the Child Development Project on elementary school students and teachers. Journal of Research in Character Education, 4(1–2), 47–64.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Ng, F. F., Kenney-Benson, G. A., & Pomerantz, E. M. (2004). Children’s achievement moderates the effects of mothers’ use of control and autonomy support. Child Development, 75, 764–780.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Rawsthorne, L. J., & Elliot, A. J. (1999). Achievement goals and intrinsic motivation: A meta-analytic review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3(4), 326–344.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Reiss, S. (2004). Multifaceted nature of intrinsic motivation: The theory of 16 basic desires. Review of General Psychology, 8, 179–193.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Reiss, S. (2009). Six motivational reasons for low school achievement. Child & Youth Care Forum, 38, 219–225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Rigby, C. S., Deci, E. L., Patrick, B. C., & Ryan, R. M. (1992). Beyond the intrinsic-extrinsic dichotomy: Self-determination in motivation and learning. Motivation and Emotion, 16, 165–185.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Ryan, R. M., & Connell, J. P. (1989). Perceived locus of causality and internalization: Examining reasons for acting in two domains. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(5), 749–761.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 54–67.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Sansone, C., & Morgan, C. (1992). Intrinsic motivation and education: Competence in context. Motivation and Emotion, 16(3), 249–270.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Sciutto, M. J., Nolfi, C. J., & Bluhm, C. (2004). Effects of child gender and symptom type on referrals for ADHD by elementary school teachers. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 12, 247–253.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Sterling-Turner, H. E., Watson, T. S., Wildmon, M., Watkins, C., & Little, E. (2001). Investigating the relationship between training type and treatment integrity. School Psychology Quarterly, 16(1), 56–67.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Vansteenkiste, M., Lens, W., & Deci, E. L. (2006). Intrinsic versus extrinsic goal contents in self-determination theory: Another look at the quality of academic motivation. Educational Psychologist, 41, 19–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Webster-Stratton, C., & Herbert, M. (1993). What really happens in parent training? Behavior Modification, 17(4), 407–456.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank the late Jere Brophy for repeatedly sharing insight regarding the application of motivational theories. Mark L. Davison provided helpful consultation regarding statistical analyses. Evelyn Oka, Eugene Pernell, Jr., and Mark Reckase also provided helpful comments while serving on the dissertation committee. Appreciation is extended to the schools, parents, and children who supported or participated in this study.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to John Mark Froiland.

Additional information

This article is based on a doctoral dissertation completed at Michigan State University by John Mark Froiland under the supervision of Jere Brophy.

This article is dedicated in memory of Jere Brophy, who made priceless contributions to the fields of educational psychology, teacher education, developmental psychology, school psychology, and motivational science.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Froiland, J.M. Parental Autonomy Support and Student Learning Goals: A Preliminary Examination of an Intrinsic Motivation Intervention. Child Youth Care Forum 40, 135–149 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-010-9126-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Parenting style
  • Homework
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Elementary school students
  • Goal setting