First Advisor

Andrew Mashburn

Date of Publication

Winter 3-25-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology






Achievement motivation in children -- Psychological aspects, Engagement (Philosophy) -- Children, Alienation (Social psychology) -- Children, Early childhood education



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 123 pages)


The American school system currently faces gaps in achievement between its low-income, minority students and their higher-income, white peers. These gaps exist both in academic and socioemotional skills, are present by kindergarten entry, and persist throughout students' school careers. One proposed strategy through which these gaps may be reduced is through the promotion of student motivation and engagement. In the primary and secondary school settings, these constructs are promoted through teachers' motivational support of students' psychological needs for relatedness, autonomy, and competence. However, the development of these factors prior to kindergarten entry has not been as well studied.

Data from 333 students and their 98 preschool classrooms were used to examine whether highly motivationally supportive preschool experiences can buffer the negative effects of risk in order to support the development of a high sense of motivation and engagement that is sustained across the transition to kindergarten. In terms of normative changes, results indicated that both engagement and disaffection declined across the kindergarten transition. High maternal education was a consistent predictor of increases in engagement and motivation and declines in disaffection across the kindergarten transition. While need support did not consistently buffer the loss of engagement or enhance declines in disaffection, it did seem particularly beneficial for boys, whose motivation and disaffection outcomes tended to improve after preschool experiences characterized by high warmth. Additionally, children's declines in frustration across the kindergarten transition were enhanced by well-structured preschool experiences.

Details of analyses, results, strengths, limitations, and implications for future research are discussed.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier