Early Parent-Child Relationship and Type of Parental Praise and Criticism as Predictors of Toddler Motivation on an Unsolvable Task

Doctoral Dissertation


Children experience failure multiple times a day; some children persist viewing the failure as a challenge, whereas other quit in frustration. The purpose of the present study was to understand the early social influences, in particular, parental influences on young children’s motivation. In addition, the present study investigated the types of feedback mothers provide to their young children and the degree to which type of feedback (person vs. non-person) and positive or negative feedback influences young children’s motivation. A longitudinal design assessed how sensitivity during infancy (3-, 5-, and 7-months) and the feedback provided during a teaching task at 20-months would influence two components of motivation, negative affect and persistence measured while the toddler interacts with an unsolvable toy independently at 20-months. Results suggest that early maternal sensitivity predicts toddler negative affect, but not persistence. Further, mothers’ used more ambiguous than either person or non-person positive feedback. Finally, although feedback did not predict motivation, greater toddler persistence predicted, although not significantly, a greater proportion of maternal positive feedback (i.e., praise). Overall, early sensitive parenting does influence toddler response to failure, whereas feedback was not significantly related for toddlers.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04152009-201316

Author Shannon Rae Zentall
Advisor Julia M. Braungart-Rieker
Contributor Julianne C. Turner, Committee Member
Contributor Dawn M. Gondoli, Committee Member
Contributor Guangjian Zhang, Committee Member
Contributor Julia M. Braungart-Rieker, Committee Chair
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Psychology
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2009-04-06

Submission Date 2009-04-15
  • United States of America

  • parent-child relations

  • persistence

  • parental sensitivity

  • motivation orientation

  • negative affect

  • parental intrusiveness

  • feedback

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility and Access Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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