Background: Children's perceived competence and intrinsic motivation are assumed to be very high at the outset of schooling. However, how they change and how they relate to each other and to academic achievement across early schooling years remain open to question.

Aims: This 3-year longitudinal study was aimed at examining the following questions. Do children's perceived competence and intrinsic motivation about reading and mathematics change across the first 3 years of schooling? Do their perceived competence and intrinsic motivation differ according to academic domains? Do their perceived competence and intrinsic motivation relate to their academic achievement in each academic domain?

Sample: A total of 115 elementary schoolchildren (63 boys and 52 girls) were examined in first grade (mean age = 84,5 months, SD = .67) and for the next 2 years.

Method: Children responded to questionnaires about their perceived competence and intrinsic motivation in reading and mathematics. Year-end grades in these two subjects were used as a measure of performance.

Results: Changes in perceived competence and intrinsic motivation, and between-year intercorrelations, were observed to differ according to academic domains and gender. Intrinsic motivation did not make a significant contribution to academic achievement at either school grade or in any academic domain, whereas perceived competence was significantly related to achievement at each school grade in both reading and mathematics.

Conclusions: Differences between boys and girls observed in this study were not linked to a specific domain and cannot be attributed to gender-role stereotypes. Girls appeared to be more precocious in differentiating their competence and intrinsic motivation according to academic domain, as well as in being able to process and integrate information about their ability from past performances in a domain to judge their competence in the same domain.