Relations among children's social goals, implicit personality theories, and responses to social failure

Dev Psychol. 1997 Mar;33(2):263-72. doi: 10.1037//0012-1649.33.2.263.


Two studies examined children's thought patterns in relation to their responses to social challenge. In Study 1, 4th and 5th graders tried out for a pen pal club under either a performance goal (stressing the evaluative nature of the tryout) or a learning goal (emphasizing the potential learning opportunities). In their behavior and attributions following rejection, children who were focused on a performance goal reacted with more helplessness, whereas children given a learning goal displayed a more mastery-oriented response. Study 2 found that in response to hypothetical socially challenging situations, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders who believed personality was nonmalleable (entity theorists) vs. malleable (incremental theorists) were more likely to endorse performance goals. Together, these studies indicate that children's goals in social situations are associated with their responses to social failure and are predicted by their implicit theories about their personality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Personality Development*
  • Psychology, Child
  • Social Behavior*