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Child Abuse Negl. 1996 May;20(5):397-410.

Self-perceptions, motivation, and school functioning of low-income maltreated and comparison children.

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Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.


Maltreated children are at risk for disturbances and delays in their socioemotional and scholastic functioning. This study examined the impact of child maltreatment and age on perceptions of competence, and the relations among perceived competence, motivation, and school functioning. The sample included 76 school children living in poverty, approximately two-thirds of whom had been victims of child maltreatment. Results indicated that both maltreated and nonmaltreated children exhibited maladaptive motivational orientations toward scholastic tasks and poor academic performance, supporting the idea that threats to scholastic functioning reside as much within the ecology of poverty as in that of maltreatment. Over and above the general effects of poverty, maltreatment was found to disrupt the psychological processes accounting for children's scholastic performance. Results revealed that younger maltreated children (6- and 7-year-olds) reported more inflated self-perceptions of competence and social acceptance than nonmaltreated children. In contrast, older maltreated children (8- through 11-year-olds) reported lower perceived social acceptance than nonmaltreated children. Among older nonmaltreated children, perceived competence was positively related to teacher's ratings of their effort, intrinsic motivation, and grades. For older maltreated children, these relations among self-perceptions and school functioning were in the opposite direction from those of nonmaltreated children, suggesting that the determinants of academic engagement are different for maltreated and nonmaltreated children.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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