Early Childhood Experiences and Women's Achievement Motives



Research findings in child development are reviewed to shed light on female achievement motives. It is suggested that females have high needs for affiliation which influence their achievement motives and behavior, sometimes enhancing and sometimes blocking them. Since girls as compared to boys have less encouragement for independence, more parental protectiveness, less pressure for establishing an identity separate from the mother, and less mother-child conflict which highlights this separation, they engage in less independent exploration of their environments. As a result they develop neither adequate skills nor confidence but continue to be dependent upon others. Thus while boys learn effectance through mastery, the effectiveness of girls is contingent on elicting the help of others. Affective relationships are paramount in females and much of their achievement behavior is motivated by a desire to please. If achievement threatens affiliation, performance may be sacrificed or anxiety may result.