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«Running head: MOTHER’S ACHIEVEMENT MOTIVATION AND ANXIETY Relationships Among Maternal Achievement Motive and Anxiety and Children’s Academic ...»

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[Achievement Motivation and Anxiety] 1


Relationships Among Maternal Achievement Motive and Anxiety and Children’s Academic

Performance and Anxiety Levels

Nicole Friedman

Honor’s Thesis Committee:

Cheryl A. Camenzuli, Ph.D. – Sponsor

Amy Masnick, Ph.D.

Melissa Gebbia, Ph.D.

[Achievement Motivation and Anxiety] 2


Maternal achievement motivation and anxiety were evaluated in relation to fourth graders’ performance on the English Language Arts Exam (ELA) and the children’s anxiety. Forty-eight mother-child dyads were tested, with mothers completing the Motivational Trait Questionnaire (MTQ), the State Trait Anxiety Inventory trait anxiety scale (STAI-C2) and a demographics survey. Children took a practice New York State English Language Arts Exam and the Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale (RCMAS). Positive correlations were expected among maternal MTQ, maternal STAI-C2 and children’s RCMAS scores. Negative correlations were expected for above variables with ELA scores. Data support the relationship between maternal MTQ and STAI-C2. ELA scores were positively correlated with MTQ scores and no correlations were found among STAI-C2, RCMAS, and ELA scores. A post-hoc analysis among STAI-C2 and subscale scores of the RCMAS suggests that a closer examination of the relationships amongst the variables of maternal anxiety, child anxiety and ELA performance is warranted.

As much relies on the interpretation of ELA scores, further research regarding influences on child performance as well as the usefulness of the ELA in general are necessary.

[Achievement Motivation and Anxiety] 3 Relationships Among Maternal Achievement Motive and Anxiety and Children’s Academic Performance and Anxiety Levels Many psychologists have been interested in finding out what factors produce individual differences in a child’s scholastic achievement. There is a growing body of research that indicates that personality factors of the parent may ultimately influence the child’s performance both in school and on many nationally administered and norm-based exams. Achievement motivation and anxiety of the parent are now being looked at as possible factors that influence a child’s academic ability. From the author’s experience in working at Kumon Learning Centers, it became evident that mothers often seem to exhibit considerable anxiety with regard to their child’s achievement in school. Most of these mothers were career women and appeared to be women who would rank high in measures of achievement motivation. Thus it appeared to the author that the variables of achievement motive and anxiety are related. The present study sought to examine the relationships among mother’s achievement motivation and trait anxiety levels and children’s anxiety and performance on the New York State English Language Arts (ELA) Exam.

At the turn of the nineteenth century there began to be many new forms of family relationships. One major change was the bond between a mother and her son. As opposed to how their relationship was in the eighteenth century, mothers were now encouraged to keep close ties with their sons for as long as they lived and were supposed to shape their sons’ moral character. It was because of these changes that the relationship between a mother and son became more “intense and entangled” than the mother-son bonds of past centuries. Once the son

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confidence and moral strength. However, there was also a tendency to regress that produced difficult struggles for complete autonomy (Rotundo, 1995).

This struggle to break away from a symbiotic bond is also prevalent in the motherdaughter relationship. Some research even finds that the mother-child bond is even stronger in the mother-daughter dyad. M ahler, Pine, and Bergman (1975) feel that a boy has the ability to go through psychological differentiation and become autonomous, while the girl always holds on to the closeness to her mother. It is because of this that issues of dependency, attachment, and a lack of separateness from the mother emerge. As Parsons (1955) points out, a boy who is threeto-five-years-old must shift his gender identity from his mother onto the father. The boy must no longer be dependent on the mother. On the other hand, the girl is encouraged to hold on to this dependence to further adopt her gender identity and become more like her mother (in Cohler & Grunebaum, 1981). Crandall, Dewey, Katkovsky, and Preston (1964) also found that parent’s attitudes and behaviors were associated with their daughters’ performances on scholasticachievement tests much more often than those with their sons. In addition, girls’ achievement strivings were directly related to their evident yearning for approval from adults, while the boys’ achievement behaviors were more autonomously developed.

Given that different researchers have reported strong symbiotic bonds in both the motherson dyad and the mother-daughter dyad, the current study sought to investigate the relationship between maternal personality and child performance with respect to gender. One way to look at the mother child relationship is with regard to a mother’s achievement motivation and the effect

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Achievement Motive In the 1950’s and 1960’s a prominent theme in motivation research was Achievement motivation. This learned drive was first experimentally studied by McClelland, Atkinson, Clark and Lowell (1976, original publication date 1953), and Atkinson (1964) furthered this experimental tradition with a theory of motivation incorporating the achievement motive that was the main topic of motivation research throughout the 1960’s. Achievement was defined as “the result of an emotional conflict between striving for success and avoiding failure” (Covington, 2000, p 173). Achievement motivation was looked at as a personality trait that distinguished persons based on their tendency or aspiration to do things well and compete against a standard of excellence (Wigfield & Eccles, 2002). As achievement motivation became the focus of a large body of research in personality studies, a means of measuring achievement motivation became a focal point for researchers investigating its prevalence in the population.

The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) was created in 1935 by C.D. Morgan and Henry Murray. When using the TAT to measure motivation a subject looks at a group of pictures and is told to make up stories based on what they see. Because these pictures are so ambiguous, the subject tends to project his or her own conflicts and fears into the stories he/she creates. The systems that are used to score this test are time consuming and there is little evidence that the test makes a clinically significant contribution. Due to the fact that the clinicians have to interpret the stories the subjects tell, which is a highly subjective procedure, there is much room for error (Carson, Butcher & Mineka, 2000).

In 1997 Eric D. Heggestad and Ruth Kanfer developed the Motivational Trait Questionnaire (MTQ). This questionnaire was created to distinguish the differences between a

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the MTQ was soon developed to measure an individual’s personal mastery, competitive excellence, and motivation related to anxiety (Kanfer & Ackerman, 2000). This method of measuring a person’s achievement motivation is much faster than the TAT and has very high validity and reliability because scoring is based on an objective procedure. Results of the MTQ are thus, not open to subjective interpretation, making the MTQ faster, easier and a more reliable method for estimating the level of achievement motivation of a group of individuals.

In 1985, B.S. Bloom found that children must have an extremely high level of motivation and support in order to develop exceptional expertise in school (in Wong & Csikszentmihalyi, 1991). Many studies have shown that people with outstanding accomplishments have a special attraction and participation in their own work (Barron, 1969; Bloom & Sosniak, 1981; see Renzulli, 1986, for a review; in Wong & Csikszentmihalyi, 1991). Renzulli (1986) named this characteristic “task commitment” (in Wong & Csikszentmihalyi, 1991). In their analysis of gifted people Feldhausen (1986) and Haensly, Reynolds, and Nash (1986) affirmed how important motivation and commitment are (in Wong & Csikszentmihalyi, 1991). Numerous studies have shown a positive relationship between scholastic performance and achievement motivation (Gough, 1964a, Gough & Fink, 1964; Harper, 1975; Keimowitz & Ansbacher, 1960;

Mason, Adams, & Blood, 1966) d’Heurle, Mellinger, and Haggard, in 1959, found, in their study of personality, intellectual, and achievement patterns of gifted third grade children that there is a positive relationship between parental pressures toward achievement and achievement test scores (in Callard, 1979). In other words, parental achievement leads to higher achievement in their children. In 1962, Argyle and Robinson looked at the relationship between a child’s

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showed that high achievement scores from children had a positive correlation with parental demands (in Callard, 1979). In other words, the more that a parent expected his/her child to do well in school, the greater his/her level of academic achievement.

Trait Anxiety In addition to research on the influence of parent achievement motivation on a child’s performance, other studies have investigated the influence of parents’ anxiety levels on academic performance of children. A person can be anxious in two different ways. S/he can either possess state anxiety or trait anxiety. State anxiety is a temporary emotional state or condition that varies in strength and fluctuates over time (Spielberger, 1972, 1980; Spielberger & Vagg, 1995; in Peleg-Popko, 2002). A person with trait anxiety is an anxious person all the time. It is a condition that does not have a time limit. As Spielberger (1966a, 1972a) points out, it is a stable personality trait (in Levitt, 1980).

Hedl, (1972), Sarason (1975), Spiegel (1972) (in Hancock, 2001), and Trent & Maxwell (1980) saw test anxiety as a trait that makes people react to frightening situations with sometimes debilitating psychological, physiological, and behavioral responses. This would lead us to infer that someone high in trait anxiety would be high in test anxiety. There is a good deal of evidence that states that test anxiety negatively effects test performance. One example is Hembree’s research in 1988 in which he found that test anxiety regularly causes poor performance (in Hancock, 2001). In 1984, Hill and Wigfield reported studies with correlations up to -.60 between test anxiety and achievement (in Hancock, 2001). This makes the suggestion that anxiety and achievement share significant variance. Test anxious children are more likely to obtain poorer scores, repeat a grade, and perform more poorly on tasks that require new learning

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and Patalano, 1991). Test anxiety has also been related to low self-esteem, dependency, and passivity which all have a negative effect on academic achievement (Beidel and Turner, 1988;

Zeidner, 1998; in Peleg-Popko, 2001). Thus, research has shown a relationship between achievement motivation and anxiety. While there was no direct examination of parental achievement motive combined with trait anxiety and their influence on test performance in children, the above studies suggest a potential influence which the current study sought to investigate.

Anxiety in Children Not only is it important to see if a relationship exists between a mother’s state anxiety and her child’s test scores, but it is also pertinent to look at the relationship between a child’s anxiety and his/her academic success. Scholwinski and Reynolds (1985) tested a child’s anxiety with the Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale (RCMAS) and reported that children with lower levels of anxiety had a higher IQ than those with high levels of anxiety. Research has gone on to look and see if there is a relationship between a child’s ability to concentrate and his/her anxiety level. Perrin and Last (1992) found that boys with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) had equal anxiety levels to boys with an anxiety disorder. It was also found that ADHD children had an elevated level of “concentration/social worry” on the RCMAS (Lufi and Parish-Plass, 1995). In addition, anxious children have increasing numbers of somatic complaints (Bernstein, Massie, Thuras, Perwien, Borchards and Crosby, 1997; Beidel, Christ, Long, 1991). In 1999, Egger, Costello, Erkanli, and Angold found that, for girls, stomachaches and headaches together and musculoskeletal pains alone were associated with anxiety disorders.

However, for boys, stomachaches were associated with oppositional defiant disorder and ADHD.

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well as negative correlations between anxiety and concentration ability, attention ability and concentration/social worry, and anxiety and somatic complaints. Thus, it would be reasonable to examine the influence of the child’s anxiety on performance on the ELA. It would also be interesting to investigate the relationship between maternal anxiety and child’s anxiety.

Population of Interest Mothers who are over protective, encourage dependency, and buffer autonomy, tend to have children who are anxious (Bowlby, 1980; see also Sullivan’s 1953 pioneering work; in Peleg-Popko, 2001). In 1988 Spielberger linked the differences in a child’s predisposition to anxiety and amount of trait anxiety to a parent’s punishment, criticism, or disapproval (PelegPopko, 2001). Family interaction influences both a child’s trait anxiety and his or her school performance (Peleg-Popko, 2001). It would be reasonable to suspect that children whose parents place them in special help programs would be children whose parents are high in achievement motivation and anxiety. This would then be reflected in poorer performance on the part of the children.

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