Self-concept, motivation, and competence among preschoolers from maltreating and comparison families

Child Abuse Negl. 1990;14(4):525-40. doi: 10.1016/0145-2134(90)90101-x.


Maltreated children are at risk for impaired cognitive and school functioning. In this study, the role that home environment, self-concept, and mastery motivation play in this relation was investigated. Thirty-six preschool children and their mothers, representing three family backgrounds (12 low-income maltreating, 12 low-income comparison, 12 middle-income comparison), were assessed in a preschool/home study. Children from maltreating families scored lower than their peers on several measures of cognitive and physical competence and on ratings of motivation. At the same time, these children significantly overrated their physical competence, and self-ratings of competence and acceptance tended to be higher (and less realistic) than those of their low-income peers. An overall difference in developmental quality of the home environment of maltreating families was largely accounted for by socioeconomic status (SES), but the tendency of these homes to be less clean and safe remained significant even after SES was controlled. Various aspects of the home environment were associated with superior task performance, but not with motivation or self-perceptions. Whereas the general home environment may affect competence, relationship factors implicated in maltreatment may be more important in shaping self-concept and motivation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning Disabilities / psychology
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Personality Development*
  • Psychosocial Deprivation
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Environment