Longitudinal predictions between temperamental sensitivities and achievement goal orientations in the early school years

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Students’ goal strivings are known to be connected with important outcomes, both academically and with regard to individual well-being. In spite of their importance, our knowledge of factors contributing to their early development is rather limited. In this longitudinal study on school beginners (N= 212), we focused on the interrelationships between achievement goal orientations (mastery; performance-approach; performance-avoidance; work-avoidance) and two temperamental sensitivities that appear relevant for the developing sense of mastery and performance in the school setting: interindividual reward sensitivity (reward derived from social approval and attention) and sensitivity to punishment (propensity to perceive cues of potential threat in the environment, and react with withdrawal and avoidance). The data were collected over the first three school years, from grade 1 (7–8 years) to grade 3 (9–10 years), and analysed using PLS-SEM. As expected, both temperamental sensitivities and achievement goal orientations remained relatively stable over time. Interindividual reward sensitivity was related negatively with mastery and positively with performance-approach and performance-avoidance orientations, from the first through to the third year. Punishment sensitivity had a positive effect on performance-avoidance orientation, and indirect, reciprocal, negative effects with performance-approach orientation. The findings provide new knowledge on early relationships between temperament and goal strivings. Interindividual reward sensitivity appears consistently associated with performance concerns and decreased mastery strivings. Such connections may have long-standing negative influence on students’ educational trajectories, and point to the importance of acknowledging individual differences in temperament and their role in motivation and learning.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychology of Education
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)451–475
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 516 Educational sciences
  • 515 Psychology
  • Motivation
  • Reward and punishment sensitivity
  • Follow-up study
  • Teacher-ratings
  • Elementary school
  • SELF
  • BAS
  • BIS

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