Princeton University Library Catalog

Am “I” a Student? An Exploration of Adolescence, Identity, and Academic Motivation

Newman, Kathleen [Browse]
Senior thesis
Sugarman, Susan [Browse]
Buschman, Timothy [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Psychology [Browse]
Class year:
124 pages
Summary note:
Previous research has shown that children’s positive academic motivation decreases from the ages of nine to fifteen (Gillet et al. 2012, Blackwell et al. 2007). Positive academic motivation is defined as a combination of intrinsic motivation and self-determined extrinsic motivation (motivation to obtain an external reward based upon a self-determined identification with said reward). Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development posits that, during the adolescent transition, youths experience an identity crisis and must define themselves by committing to an identity. I hypothesized that students’ positive academic motivation would decrease as their sense of identity became diffuse and would increase as their sense of identity became coherent. Students from fourth grade to seniors in college (ages 9-25) responded to surveys designed to measure their identity formation status (EOMEIS-II) and their academic motivation levels (Academic Motivation Scale). Results showed that before the adolescent transition, students on average had a strong sense of identity and moderate levels of positive academic motivation. During the adolescent transition, students experienced the highest and lowest of positive academic motivation levels. Generally the more students were attempting to form and were able to commit to an identity at this stage, the higher their positive academic motivation. After the adolescent transition, most students had reached, or were trying to reach, a committed identity status and had moderate levels of positive academic motivation. These results indicate that positive academic motivation levels are associated with an attempt to form, or a commitment to, an identity. Keywords: identity, academic motivation, adolescence