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

By David Messer | Go to book overview
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Chapter 11

Toddler mastery motivation and competence

Links with attachment security, maternal scaffolding and family climate

Christine Maslin-Cole, Inge Bretherton and George A. Morgan

This chapter reports results from a short-term longitudinal study examining the influence on toddler mastery motivation and competence of three aspects of the early social environment: mother-child attachment security, maternal scaffolding behaviour, and family climate. This study extends previous research, first, by including multiple measures of mastery motivation derived from free play, structured tasks and maternal perceptions; second, by repeating measures at two points during toddlerhood to allow for prediction over time and assessment of stability of key measures; and third, by employing multiple regression to determine predictability of outcome measures using several measures of the child’s early social environment.


DISTINGUISHING MASTERY MOTIVATION AND COMPETENCE

We have previously defined mastery motivation as a psychological force that stimulates an individual to attempt independently, in a focused and persistent manner, to solve a problem or master a skill that is at least moderately challenging for him or her (Morgan et al. 1990). A recent extension of our definition (Barrett and Morgan in press; Barren et al., this volume, Chapter 5) identifies two aspects of mastery motivation: (1) an instrumental aspect, which involves behaviours aimed at controlling and/or mastering the environment and reflects qualities such as persistence, engrossment and sustained attention while attempting to reach a goal or striving to gain control, and (2) an expressive aspect, which includes emotional responses displayed while striving towards a goal, after attaining or failing to attain a goal, or in response to attempts to gain control over ongoing events. Typical measures of each aspect in object-related contexts include persistence at challenging tasks (instrumental aspect) and smiling during or after reaching a goal (expressive aspect).

Measures of persistence and mastery pleasure have generally not been

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