Ability Self-Perceptions and Subjective Task Values in Adolescents and Children

Indicators of Positive Development Conference
March 12-13, 2003
Bureau of Labor Statistics Conference Center
Washington, DC


Jacquelynne S. Eccles, University of Michigan, Susan A. O’Neill, Keele University, and Allan Wigfield, University of Maryland

Individual differences in achievement-related behaviors have been a central concern of social and personality theory for at least the last 50 years. Various theoretical analyses of these differences have been proposed, and a variety of self and task beliefs and perceptions have been proposed as mediators of achievement-related behavior. Many of these achievement theories derive from classic expectancy/value models of behavior (e.g., Atkinson, 1964) and focus on individual differences in expectations for success and the subjective valuing of various achievement-related behaviors and options as the major predictors of individual differences in achievement. For example, such theorists predict that individual differences in school achievement are mediated by individual differences in expectations for succeeding on school achievement tasks and individual differences in the value students place on doing well in school. They predict that doing well in school is facilitated by having high confidence in one’s academic abilities and by placing high value on doing well in school. Similarly arguments have been proposed for other competence domains such as sports and instrumental music (see Eccles, Wigfield, & Schiefele, 1998). Given that doing well, and feeling competent, in socially valued achievement-related domains are both very important positive outcomes for both success in our society and good mental health, having indicators of the predictors of these outcomes during childhood and adolescence would be useful to policy makers and to researchers. In this paper, we summarize briefly the theoretical bases for one set of measures for these constructs and then summarize the scale development and confirmation for these measures.