Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Daryl B. Greenfield

Second Committee Member

Rebecca J. Shearer

Third Committee Member

Batya E. Elbaum


Embracing challenges and coping with setbacks broadly characterize a set of skills known as motivation orientation. Smiley and Dweck (1994) define two types of motivational orientations (MO): mastery motivated orientation (MMO) and performance motivated orientation (PMO). The former is characterized by viewing failure as an opportunity for growth while the latter views failure as a confirmation of negative self-attributions. How and when these MO’s develop and can be fostered as well as how they operate in preschool and low-income contexts, however, remains unknown. This project extends the literature by examining the relationships between MO and school readiness outcomes in preschoolers from low-income families. Of the 334 children assessed, 77% endorsed a MMO, and 23% a PMO. The measure of MO showed poor to fair stability overall (Cohen’s Kappa=.39), however, MMO was more stable (r=.90) than PMO (r=.51) within the re-test sample. While the previous finding that children who endorse a MMO made significantly fewer negative evaluations of their ability was replicated, no significant relationships between MO and school readiness outcomes were found. Results highlight potential limitations in the measurement of MO for preschooler from low- income families. Future research should focus on exploring this issue and creating sensitive and developmentally appropriate direct assessments of MO so young children with maladaptive motivational skills can be reliably identified and targeted for intervention.


Head Start; School Readiness; Motivaiton; Low-income; Preschool