Individuals who believe that intelligence can be improved with effort (an incremental theory of intelligence) and who approach challenges with the goal of improving their understanding (a learning goal) tend to have higher academic achievement. Furthermore, parent praise is associated with children's incremental theories and learning goals. However, the influences of parental criticism, as well as different forms of praise and criticism (e.g., process vs. person), have received less attention. We examine these associations by analyzing two existing datasets (Study 1: N = 317 first to eighth graders; Study 2: N = 282 fifth and eighth graders). In both studies, older children held more incremental theories of intelligence, but lower learning goals, than younger children. Unexpectedly, the relation between theories of intelligence and learning goals was nonsignificant and did not vary with children's grade level. In both studies, overall perceived parent praise positively related to children's learning goals, whereas perceived parent criticism negatively related to incremental theories of intelligence. In Study 2, perceived parent process praise was the only significant (positive) predictor of children's learning goals, whereas perceived parent person criticism was the only significant (negative) predictor of incremental theories of intelligence. Finally, Study 2 provided some support for our hypothesis that age-related differences in perceived parent praise and criticism can explain age-related differences in children's learning goals. Results suggest that incremental theories of intelligence and learning goals might not be strongly related during childhood and that perceived parent praise and criticism have important, but distinct, relations with each motivational construct.
Keywords: Feedback; Learning goals; Parent criticism; Parent praise; Parenting; Theories of intelligence.
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