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Mastery motivation in boys and girls: The role of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation

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This research tested the hypothesis that the importance of adult approval and feedback for females relative to males would render girls of elementary school age more likely to develop an extrinsic orientation in comparison to boys. Using S. Harter's Scale of Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Motivation [(1981), “A New Self-Report Scale of Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Motivational Orientation in the Classroom: Motivational and Informational Components,” Developmental Psychology Vol. 17, pp. 300–312], the data supported this hypothesis. Because of the assumed differential importance of controlling feedback from adults for females relative to males, a second study examined girls' and boys' preference for challenge as a function of adult controlling feedback and children's motivational orientation. The pattern of data supported the hypothesis that girls relative to boys show differential preferences for challenge, depending on the presence of type of adult feedback and motivational orientation in girls.

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Author information

Correspondence to Ann K. Boggiano.

Additional information

The authors would like to thank Charles M. Judd for his statistical advice, and Marty Barrett and Cheryl Flink for their comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. This research was supported in part by Grant No. 39197 from the National Institute for Mental Health to the first author.

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Boggiano, A.K., Main, D.S. & Katz, P. Mastery motivation in boys and girls: The role of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. Sex Roles 25, 511–520 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00290060

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  • Social Psychology
  • Elementary School
  • Extrinsic Motivation
  • Motivational Orientation
  • Informational Component