Parent Praise to Toddlers Predicts Fourth Grade Academic Achievement via Children’s Incremental Mindsets

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Abstract

In a previous study, parent–child praise was observed in natural interactions at home when children were 1, 2, and 3 years of age. Children who received a relatively high proportion of process praise (e.g., praise for effort and strategies) showed stronger incremental motivational frameworks, including a belief that intelligence can be developed and a greater desire for challenge, when they were in 2nd or 3rd grade (Gunderson et al., 2013). The current study examines these same children’s (n = 53) academic achievement 1 to 2 years later, in 4th grade. Results provide the first evidence that process praise to toddlers predicts children’s academic achievement (in math and reading comprehension) 7 years later, in elementary school, via their incremental motivational frameworks. Further analysis of these motivational frameworks shows that process praise had its effect on fourth grade achievement through children’s trait beliefs (e.g., believing that intelligence is fixed vs. malleable), rather than through their learning goals (e.g., preference for easy vs. challenging tasks). Implications for the socialization of motivation are discussed.

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