Genetic and Environmental Influences on Achievement Goal Orientations Shift with Age

  • Anqing Zheng (Contributor)
  • Daniel A. Briley (Creator)
  • Margherita Malanchini (Creator)
  • Jennifer Tackett (Creator)
  • K. Paige Harden (Contributor)
  • Elliot M. Tucker-Drob (Contributor)
  • Cornelia Wrzus (Creator)



Students engage in learning activities with different achievement goal orientations. Some students pursue learning for learning sake (i.e. mastery goal orientation), some are driven by gaining favourable judgement of their performance (i.e. performance approach goal orientation), and others focus on avoiding negative judgement (i.e. performance avoidance goal orientation). These goal orientations are linked with academic achievement, and troublingly, students report decreasing levels of goal orientations across the school years. However, little is known concerning the mechanisms that drive this decline. In a large (N = 891 twin pairs) cross–sectional genetically informative sample (age = 8 to 22 years), we found that older students reported lower goal orientations. Then, we identified shifts in the magnitude of genetic and environmental variance in each goal orientation. For example, variance in mastery goal orientation was primarily associated with environmental factors during the elementary school years. As students entered high school, genetic influences increased, replacing shared environmental influences. Finally, we situated these findings in the larger nomological network by testing associations with psychological constructs (e.g. personality and cognitive ability) and contextual variables (e.g. parents, schools, and peers). The development of academic motivation is complex with many interconnecting factors that appear to shift with age © 2019 European Association of Personality Psychology
Date made available2020
PublisherSAGE Journals

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