Self-concept, motivation, and competence among preschoolers from maltreating and comparison families

Joan I. Vondra, Douglas Barnett, Dante Cicchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Maltreated children are at risk for impaired cognitive and school functioning. In this study, the role that home environment, self-concept, and mastery motivation play in this relation was investigated. Thirty-six preschool children and their mothers, representing three family backgrounds (12 low-income maltreating, 12 low-income comparison, 12 middle-income comparison), were assessed in a preschool/home study. Children from maltreating families scored lower than their peers on several measures of cognitive and physical competence and on ratings of motivation. At the same time, these children significantly overrated their physical competence, and self-ratings of competence and acceptance tended to be higher (and less realistic) than those of their low-income peers. An overall difference in developmental quality of the home environment of maltreating families was largely accounted for by socioeconomic status (SES), but the tendency of these homes to be less clean and safe remained significant even after SES was controlled. Various aspects of the home environment were associated with superior task performance, but not with motivation or self-perceptions. Whereas the general home environment may affect competence, relationship factors implicated in maltreatment may be more important in shaping self-concept and motivation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-540
Number of pages16
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Work on this paper and the research described herein were supported by grants from the Monroe County Department of Social Services, the Smith-Richardson Foundation, Inc., and the Spunk Fund, Inc. to the third author.


  • Competence
  • Home environment
  • Motivation
  • Preschool
  • Self-concept


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