Over the years, psychologists have proposed many different components of achievement motivation. In an effort to systematize this vast literature, Eccles, Wigfield, & Schiefele (1998) suggested that one could group these various components under four basic questions: Can I succeed? Do I want to succeed? Why do I want to succeed? What do I have to do to succeed? We assumed that the answers to these questions would determine a child's engagement with academic and other skill-based tasks as well as their commitment to the educational and activity-related goals of their parents and teachers.
Children who develop positive and/or productive answers to these questions with regard to school are likely to engage their school work and to thrive in their school settings. Children who develop less positive answers to these questions with regard to school are likely to experience school failure and to withdraw their psychological attachments from the activities associated with school, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will turn to less productive and more risky activity settings for their psychological nurturance. Similar dynamics should apply in other skill-based areas as well. In this section, we review what is known about developmental changes over the middle childhood years in children's answers to these questions with a focus on school and academic achievement.
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