Ethnic Stigma, Academic Anxiety, and Intrinsic Motivation in Middle Childhood


  • This research and preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by a MacArthur Foundation grant to Diane N. Ruble and Andrew J. Fuligni, a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Research Grant (1 R01 HD04994) to Diane N. Ruble, and a National Science Foundation IRADS grant (0721383). We are extremely grateful to the principals, teachers, and children who participated in this project. The principals and teachers welcomed us into their schools and offered their valuable time to help us. The children provided their honest opinions and feelings that made this project possible.

concerning this article should be addressed to Cari Gillen-O’Neel, UCLA Department of Psychology, 1285 Franz Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563. Electronic mail may be sent to


Previous research addressing the dynamics of stigma and academics has focused on African American adolescents and adults. The present study examined stigma awareness, academic anxiety, and intrinsic motivation among 451 young (ages 6–11) and diverse (African American, Chinese, Dominican, Russian, and European American) students. Results indicated that ethnic-minority children reported higher stigma awareness than European American children. For all children, stigma awareness was associated with higher academic anxiety and lower intrinsic motivation. Despite these associations, ethnic-minority children reported higher levels of intrinsic motivation than their European American peers. A significant portion of the higher intrinsic motivation among Dominican students was associated with their higher levels of school belonging, suggesting that supportive school environments may be important sources of intrinsic motivation among some ethnic-minority children.