Mastery Motivation in Early Childhood: Development, Measurement, and Social Processes

By David Messer | Go to book overview
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Chapter 5

Three studies on the development of mastery motivation in infancy and toddlerhood

Karen Caplovitz Barrett, George A. Morgan and Christine Maslin-Cole

The purpose of this chapter is to describe three studies that shed light on (1) the validity of our conceptualization of mastery motivation and (2) developmental changes in such motivation during infancy and toddlerhood. For each study, we first examine the relation between task persistence and task pleasure, indices of two central aspects of mastery motivation. Second, we examine correlates of persistence and pleasure, to help provide construct validation for them as measures of mastery motivation. Third, we examine continuities and changes in behaviour, to provide evidence regarding the development of mastery motivation between 6 and 30 months of age.

The three studies also provide an opportunity to examine other themes. In Study 1, we explore one additional component of our view of mastery motivation—inclination to control events—and in Study 3, we explore another—the effects of difficulty level (challenge) on mastery motivation. In Study 2, we examine potential environmental influences on mastery motivation.


DEFINITION AND CONCEPTUALIZATION

Before discussing the specific studies, we will provide a brief synopsis of our conceptualization of mastery motivation. Mastery motivation is viewed as a multifaceted, intrinsic, psychological force that stimulates an individual to attempt to master a skill or task that is at least moderately challenging for him or her (cf. Morgan et al. 1990). We will focus on the features of this conceptualization that are most relevant to the three studies that are described.


A multifaceted force

Mastery motivation is multifaceted. Although most mastery motivation studies have focused on task persistence, and several have included task pleasure as an index of mastery motivation, there are other aspects of

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