proposed that initially young children's competence and task value beliefs are likely to be relatively independent of each other. This independence would mean that children might pursue some activities in which they are interested regardless of how good or bad they think they are at the activity. Over time, particularly in the achievement domain, children may begin to attach more value to activities on which they do well for several reasons: First, through process associated with classical conditioning, the positive affect one experiences when one does well should become attached to the activities yielding success (see Eccles, 1984). Second, lowering the value one attaches to activities that one is having difficulty with is likely to be an effective way to maintain a positive global sense of efficacy and self-esteem. Thus, at some point the two kinds of beliefs should become more positively related to one another. In partial support of this view, Wigfield et al. (1997) found that relations between children's competence beliefs and subjective values in different domains indeed are stronger among older than younger elementary school-aged children. A recent conference paper confirms this finding using our CAB (Childhood and Beyond) data (Denison, Zarrett & Eccles, 2004). The causal direction of this relation, however, has not yet been tested empirically.

Two recent studies in our laboratories have begun to unravel the causal direction story. Unfortunately, the story is not going to be simple. In the first such study, Jacobs et al. (2002) used the CAB data to link the developmental declines in academic self-concepts with these developmental declines in subjective task value over an extended longitudinal period (first to 12th grade). Using HLM with a time varying covariate, they found that the declines in subjective task value for both mathematics, and English were substantially reduced if one controlled for the declines in the same subject area academic ability self-concepts. These findings suggest that the age-related declines in academic ability self-concepts contribute to the age-related declines in the value the children attach to both mathematics and English.

Using our Michigan Study of Adolescent Life Transitions, Yoon (1996) investigated the links between performance, ability self-concepts and subjective task values for mathematics over the junior high school transition. He used structural equation modeling to compare all of the possible cross-lagged relations. In contrast to the Jacobs et al. findings (2002) and the Mac Iver et al. (1991) findings, his analyses suggest that subjective task values predict changes in ability self-concepts to a greater extent that vice versa, especially for early adolescent girls. In addition, changes in performance over the junior high school transition predicted changes in both math ability self-concepts and the value attached to doing well in math for both girls and boys.

In summary, our own studies find evidence that the causal relations among performance, ability self-concepts and subjective task values are likely to be reciprocal; they influence each other over time in a bi-directional manner. It seems quite likely that these reciprocal influences serve important psychological functions. For example, if one is doing quite well at particular activities, then one should develop a high estimate of one's ability at that activity as well as coming to place high value on success at this activity through processes associated with accurate information processing and classical conditioning. In contrast, if one is doing poorly at a particular activity, then it makes sense that one would develop a less positive view of one's abilities at that activity. It also makes sense that one would then lower the value attached to that activity in order to maintain a high sense of self-esteem. Reducing the value one attaches to a particular activity domain is a very adaptive way of responding to failure provided that one can then withdraw from that activity domain without great cost. If, however, a child is forced to continue to engage in those activity domains that he or she is having great difficulty mastering and the context focuses the child's attention on his or her relative performance rather than on his or her improvement over time, it is likely the child will be unable to reduce the value attached to that domain and, as a consequence, that his or her self-esteem and sense of self-worth will be at risk.

It is also likely that children will invest more time in activities that they enjoy. As a result, they should develop both greater competence in these activities and a more positive view of their abilities in these activities. Thus, it is no surprise that the influences among these constructs are bi-directional. The exact nature of these bi-directional relations is likely to vary depending on the child's cognitive maturity, the support provided at home, in school, and among his or peers for various causal interpretations of one's achievement experiences, and the amount of autonomy the child is provided for picking and choosing exactly how he or she wants to invest his or her time and energy.

Confident Creatures

Confident Creatures

This is way better than drunken bravery. Literally Conquer Any Challenge Without Fear And Realize Your Full Potential By Tapping Into These Closely Guarded Secrets To Building Total Confidence. Overcome Your Fears And Achieve your Ideal Lifestyle With Ease Using These Keys To Building Ultimate Personal Confidence.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment