Mastery motivation and child behavior problems

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Donald K. Routh - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Connie E. Morrow - Committee Member


This study evaluated the relationship between mastery motivation and behavior problems in 132 economically disadvantaged, inner-city, African-American children. Child mastery was measured by behavior observed during a standardized laboratory task procedure and child behavior problems were measured at two intervals with parent-reported checklists. Hierarchical regression analyses were employed to evaluate the independent influence of the mastery variables of interest, after controlling for the effects of intellectual ability and prior behavior reports. Child behavior problems found to be significantly related to observed child mastery included aggressive, anxious/depressive, destructive, and withdrawn behavior subscales. Taken together, mastery behaviors significantly accounted for 45% of the variance in future internalizing problems when considered with prior reports, and significantly accounted for 6% of unique variance. Mastery behaviors significantly accounted for 31% of the variance in future anxious/depressed problems when considered with prior reports, and significantly accounted for 7% of unique variance.Concurrent behavior problems were also evaluated in relationship to mastery behavior. When examined in simple regression analyses, the off-task mastery measures significantly accounted for 5% of the variance in total and aggressive problems, and 4% of the variance in externalizing and destructive problems. Off-task mastery measures were significantly related to contemporaneous total, internalizing and externalizing scales, and aggressive, anxious/depressed, and destructive subscales as well as the prospective internalizing scale and the anxious and withdrawn subscales. Differences based on the mastery measures and gender were also presented. Findings were discussed in relationship to understanding the connection between the mastery and behavior problems.


Black Studies; Psychology, Behavioral; Psychology, Clinical; Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

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