Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 117–126 | Cite as

Parents’ Weekly Descriptions of Autonomy Supportive Communication: Promoting Children’s Motivation to Learn and Positive Emotions

Original Paper


Although parental autonomy support has been linked to children’s intrinsic motivation to learn and positive emotions in numerous studies, there has been little research on interventions to promote parental autonomy support, especially in the realm of homework and school related learning. Furthermore, there are relatively few qualitative studies dealing with parent autonomy support and children’s emotional responses. This qualitative study examined the weekly journals of 15 parents who were learning how to promote autonomous motivation and academic enjoyment among their 4th and 5th grade children via autonomy supportive communication. Four themes emerged: generalization beyond homework and school-related learning; parents occasionally misinterpreting what it means to be autonomy supportive; strong positive responses, such as children enjoying homework and becoming more passionate about learning; and parent–child shared enjoyment and persistence in the educational games that were provided as a way to practice the autonomy supportive parenting style during each week of the intervention. This study provides insight into how parents actually apply autonomy supportive parenting techniques in the home environment. Future related parent education may benefit from these findings; for instance, parents may be provided with more examples of how autonomy support can generalize to learning in various domains of life, such as mastering a musical instrument, attending a museum exhibit, ordering books for reading pleasure and learning how to operate a boat safely. Interventions that promote children’s autonomous motivation to learn and enjoyment of learning through parental autonomy support should be further developed and studied.


Parent–child communication Student engagement Happiness Parenting style Self determination 


  1. Assemany, A. E., & McIntosh, D. E. (2002). Negative treatment outcomes of behavioral parent training programs. Psychology in the Schools, 39(2), 209–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brophy, J. (2008). Developing students’ appreciation for what is taught. Educational Psychologist, 43, 132–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown, D., Pryzwansky, W. B., & Schulte, A. C. (2001). Psychological consultation: Introduction to theory and practice (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  4. Chaplin, L. N. (2009). Please may I have a bike? Better yet, may I have a hug? An examination of children’s and adolescents’ happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10(5), 541–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chirkov, V. I., & Ryan, R. M. (2001). Parent and teacher autonomy-support in Russian and US adolescents: Common effects on well-being and academic motivation. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32, 618–635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Conti, R. (2001). Time flies: Investigating the connection between intrinsic motivation and the experience of time. Journal of Personality, 69, 1–26.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dawes, N. P., & Larson, R. (2011). How youth get engaged: Grounded-theory research on motivational development in organized youth programs. Developmental Psychology, 47(1), 259.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Facilitating optimal motivation and psychological well-being across life’s domains. Canadian Psychology, 49, 14–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Froiland, J. M. (2011). Parental autonomy support and student learning goals: A preliminary examination of an intrinsic motivation intervention. Child & Youth Care Forum, 40(2), 135–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Froiland, J. M. (2013a). Homework. In J. Ainsworth (Ed.), Sociology of education: An A-to-Z guide (pp. 362–363). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  11. Froiland, J. M. (2013b). Parent educational expectations. In J. Ainsworth (Ed.), Sociology of education: An A-to-Z guide (pp. 569–570). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  12. Froiland, J. M., & Oros, E. (2013). Intrinsic motivation, perceived competence and classroom engagement as longitudinal predictors of adolescent reading achievement. Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/01443410.2013.822964.
  13. Froiland, J. M., Oros, E., Smith, L., & Hirchert, T. (2012). Intrinsic motivation to learn: The nexus between psychological health and academic success. Contemporary School Psychology, 16, 91–100.Google Scholar
  14. Froiland, J. M., Peterson, A., & Davison, M. L. (2013a). The long-term effects of early parent involvement and parent expectation in the USA. School Psychology International, 34, 33–50. doi:10.1177/0143034312454361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Froiland, J. M., Powell, D. R., & Diamond, K. E. (in press). Relations among neighborhood social networks, home literacy environments, and children’s expressive vocabulary in suburban at-risk families. School Psychology International. doi:10.1177/0143034313500415.
  16. Froiland, J. M., Powell, D. R., Diamond, K. E., & Son, S.-H. (2013b). Neighborhood socioeconomic well-being, home literacy, and early literacy skills of at-risk preschoolers. Psychology in the Schools, 50, 755–769. doi:10.1002/pits.21711.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ginsburg, G. S., & Bronstein, P. (1993). Family factors related to children’s intrinsic/extrinsic motivational orientation and academic performance. Child Development, 64, 1461–1474.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Griffith, S. F., & Grolnick, W. S. (2013). Parenting in Caribbean families: A look at parental control, structure, and autonomy support. Journal of Black Psychology. doi:10.1177/0095798412475085.
  19. Gurland, S. T., & Grolnick, W. S. (2005). Perceived threat, controlling parenting, and children’s achievement orientations. Motivation and Emotion, 29, 103–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Joussemet, M., Landry, R., & Koestner, R. (2008). A self-determination theory perspective on parenting. Canadian Psychology, 49(3), 194–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Joussemet, M., Mageau, G., & Koestner, R. (2013). Promoting optimal parenting and children’s mental health: A preliminary evaluation of the How-to Parenting Program. Journal of Child and Family Studies. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s10826-013-9751-0.
  22. Koestner, R., Ryan, R. M., Bernieri, F., & Holt, K. (1984). Setting limits on children’s behavior: The differential effects of controlling vs. informational styles on intrinsic motivation and creativity. Journal of Personality, 52, 233–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lepper, M. R., Corpus, J. H., & Iyengar, S. S. (2005). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations in the classroom: Age differences and academic correlates. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(2), 184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Marbell, K. N., & Grolnick, W. S. (2012). Correlates of parental control and autonomy support in an interdependent culture: A look at Ghana. Motivation and Emotion, 1–14. 10.1007/s11031-012-9289-2
  25. Oldfather, P., & Dahl, K. (1994). Toward a social constructivist reconceptualization of intrinsic motivation for literacy learning. Journal of Literacy Research, 26(2), 139–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Powell, D. R., Son, S.-H., File, N., & Froiland, J. M. (2012). Changes in parent involvement across the transition from public school prekindergarten to first grade and children’s academic outcomes. The Elementary School Journal, 113(2), 276–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Schiffrin, H. H., Liss, M., Miles-McLean, H., Geary, K. A., Erchull, M. J., & Tashner, T. (2013). Helping or hovering? The effects of helicopter parenting on college students’ well-being. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 1–10. doi:10.1007/s10826-013-9716-.
  28. Seifert, T., & Hedderson, C. (2010). Intrinsic motivation and flow in skateboarding: An ethnographic study. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(3), 277–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Soenens, B., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2005). Antecedents and outcomes of self-determination in 3 life domains: The role of parents’ and teachers’ autonomy support. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34(6), 589–604. doi:10.1007/s10964-005-8948-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Su, Y. L., & Reeve, J. (2011). A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of intervention programs designed to support autonomy. Educational Psychology Review, 23, 159–188. doi:10.1007/s10648-010-9142-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. van Etten, S., Pressley, M., McInerney, D., & Liem, A. (2008). College seniors’ theory of their academic motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 812–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Vansteenkiste, M., Zhou, M., Lens, W., & Soenens, B. (2005). Experiences of autonomy and control among Chinese learners: Vitalizing or immobilizing? Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 468–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of School PsychologyUniversity of Northern ColoradoGreeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations