Undergraduate Students' Goal Orientations and Their Relationship to Perceived Parenting Styles

By Gonzalez, Alyssa; Greenwood, Gordon et al. | College Student Journal, June 2001 | Go to article overview

Undergraduate Students' Goal Orientations and Their Relationship to Perceived Parenting Styles


Gonzalez, Alyssa, Greenwood, Gordon, Wenhsu, Jin, College Student Journal


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships among Baumrind's three parenting styles (as perceived by the student) and the mastery and performance goal orientations of undergraduate college students. In addition, parent educational attainment and parent involvement were included in the analysis for the purposes of controlling the effects of these variables on student goal orientation. The sample consisted of 311 undergraduate students enrolled in education or psychology courses. Many expected relationships appeared in line with the parenting and goal theory literature. The differential findings for parent involvement, and student gender and ethnicity are also discussed. Overall, conclusions are tempered by limitations of a relatively narrow sample and moderately strong raw correlations.

The study of students' goal orientations focuses on the types of learning goals students adopt in academic situations. The first goal has been labeled a mastery goal (Ames & Archer, 1988), learning goal (Dweck & Leggett, 1988) or task involved (Nicholls, Patashnick, & Nolen, 1985). Students who are oriented toward mastery goals are interested in learning new skills and improving their understanding and competence. The second is a performance goal (Ames & Archer, 1988; Dweck & Leggett) or ego involved (Nicholls, et al., 1985). Students who orient towards performance goals are more concerned with proving their ability or avoiding negative judgments of their competence. Research done with children prior to adolescence (Dweck, 1986 & Dweck & Leggett, 1988) indicates that students with mastery goals seek out challenge and persist in the face of difficulty, view errors as opportunities to learn, see competence as malleable, and are more likely to be intrinsically motivated. Students with performance goals see intelligence as fixed, avoid challenging tasks in an effort to avoid negative evaluations, are less likely to be intrinsically motivated, and view errors as indicative of a lack of ability.

Studies in high school (Ames & Archer, 1988) and college (Archer, 1994; Hagen & Weinstein, 1995; Pintrich & Garcia, 1991) have led researchers to conclude that older students are possibly using both goal orientations simultaneously. The mere presence of performance goals does not necessarily lead to maladaptive achievement behaviors. However, the use of mastery goals is associated with more beneficial achievement behaviors like: employment of better learning strategies, more positive attitudes, selection of challenging tasks (Ames & Archer, 1988; Archer, 1994), self-regulation strategies (Hagen & Weinstein, 1995), and the practice of deeper processing strategies like elaboration and organization (Pintrich & Garcia, 1991).

The goals students adopt clearly relate to the way they approach potential learning situations. It may be that parenting styles in the home environment are strongly related to the development of student goal orientations. Blumenfeld (1992) stated that "current thinking about goals would profit from classroom climate and cross-cultural research concerning the influence of teachers and parents on student motivation and learning" (p. 276). Because of recent interest in college students' goal orientations, this study will focus on these ages.

Baumrind's research proposes three parenting styles: (a) authoritative, (b) authoritarian, and (c) permissive. Authoritarian parenting is associated with an emphasis on obedience and a tendency to favor more punitive measures of discipline management. Authoritative parents tend to take time to explain rules with children, place less emphasis on strict obedience and are more likely to encourage autonomy. Permissive parents use little apparent control over their children's behavior, rarely use punishment in their homes and allow children to make their own decisions.

Research (Baumrind, 1967, 1971; Baumrind & Black, 1967; Maccoby & Martin, 1983) has shown that children from authoritarian homes tend to exhibit more anxious and withdrawn behavior, have a high chance of relying on authority figures to make decisions, and are less likely than those raised in authoritative homes to engage in exploratory and challenge seeking behavior.

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