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A longitudinal study of motivation and competence in children with Down syndrome: early childhood to early adolescence


Dr Linda Gilmore, School of Learning and Professional Studies, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, Qld 4059, Australia (e-mail:


Background  Motivation has been identified as an area of difficulty for children with Down syndrome. Although individual differences in mastery motivation are presumed to have implications for subsequent competence, few longitudinal studies have addressed the stability of motivation and the predictive validity of early measures for later academic achievement, especially in atypical populations.

Method  The participants were 25 children with Down syndrome. Mastery motivation, operationalised as persistence, was measured in early childhood and adolescence using tasks and parent report. At the older age, preference for challenge, another aspect of mastery motivation, was also measured and the children completed assessments of academic competence.

Results  There were significant concurrent correlations among measures of persistence at both ages, and early task persistence was associated with later persistence. Persistence in early childhood was related to academic competence in adolescence, even when the effects of cognitive ability at the younger age were controlled.

Conclusions  For children with Down syndrome, persistence appears to be an individual characteristic that is relatively stable from early childhood to early adolescence. The finding that early mastery motivation is significant for later achievement has important implications for the focus of early interventions.