High School Students’ Goal Orientations and Response to Parenting Styles

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between Dianna Baumrind’s three parenting styles and the goal orientations of high school students. The central hypothesis is that parenting styles influence the goal orientations of children. In this study, authoritarian and permissive parenting are expected to be related to performance goal orientations in children, while authoritative parenting is expected to be related to mastery goal orientations. A student’s parents’ involvement and family income were included in this study to control the effects that they might have on goal orientations.

In her research, Dianna Baumrind identified three parenting styles that parents use to raise their children: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. In authoritarian parenting, rules are stressed and disobedience is punished. Parents who exercise this type of parenting are controlling and make all the decisions concerning the family especially those concerning their children. They also discourage assertiveness in their children and expect rules to be followed without further explanation. In authoritative homes, however, autonomy is encouraged, rules are explained, and strict obedience is less emphasized. Also, the conduct of the children is monitored by parents and nonpunitive measures of discipline are used. In addition, communication between parents and children are encouraged and the opinions of children are valued. Permissive parents, on the other hand, have very little control over their children. They do not help their children in decision-making either.

Research has shown that children of authoritarian parents are more anxious and withdrawn compared to other children. They are also dependent on authority figures and are less likely to seek challenges. Children of authoritarian parents usually have extrinsic motivation (belief that failure and success are due to external factors, rather than inner forces). Children of authoritative parents have been found to be more independent and more interested in seeking challenges. They are also more likely to be intrinsically motivated (belief that inner forces are responsible for successes and failures). Studies have also found that children from permissive homes are more dependent on others and are less likely to persist in difficult situations (as cited in Gonzalez, Greenwood, & WenHsu, 2001, p.450).

Goal orientations refer to the type of learning students adopt in academic situations. There are two goal orientations: mastery goal orientation and performance goal orientation. Students who have a mastery orientation are interested in acquiring and learning new skills, as well as increasing their understanding of things. They seek challenges, withstand difficulties, and are more likely to be intrinsically motivated (as cited in Gonzalez, Holbein, & Quilter, 2002, p. 451). They view competence as changeable and mistakes as situations that they can learn from (as cited in Gonzalez, Greenwood, & WenHsu, 2002, p.450). Possessing performance orientation, however, involves proving your ability or avoiding criticisms about your competence. Students with this orientation avoid challenges and are more likely to be extrinsically motivated (as cited in Gonzalez, Holbein, & Quilter, 2002, p. 451). These students perceive intelligence as stable and mistakes as results of their incompetence (as cited in Gonzalez, Greenwood, & WenHsu, 2001, p. 450).

Past studies have indicated that parents’ educational attainment influences their children’s academic achievement (as cited in Gonzalez, Holbein, & Quilter, 2002, p.453). It has also been found that parental involvement has helped children academically, especially through the learning process. According to a study by C. Trusty, parental involvement is connected to high school students’ positive attitudes toward school and interest in higher education (as cited in Gonzalez, Holbein, & Quilter, 2002, p.454). Other studies have shown that parenting factors, including parental acceptance, behavioral control, involvement, and encouragement are essential in shaping children’s attitudes, especially where goal orientations are concerned (Dornbusch, Glasgow, Ritter, Steinberg, & Troyer, 1997, p.509). Research has also shown that the characteristics of the adolescents themselves influence their goal orientations. It has also been found that adolescents’ previous experiences, such as successes and failures, have contributed to their orientations towards goals (as cited in Juang & Silbereisen, 2002, p.2).

Through a study by Alyssa Gonzalez and her colleagues (2001), several connections between perceived parenting styles, parental involvement, parental education, and goal orientations were found. The study indicated that mother’s authoritativeness (does not include father’s authoritativeness) is connected with children’s mastery orientation, while father’s authoritarianism is linked with performance orientation. Permissive parenting failed to be a predictor of the goal orientations in this study. Parental involvement and parental education were not related to any of the goal orientations as well. Separate regression analyses were performed for the demographic groups: gender and ethnicity. The regression analyses reported several findings. It found that the relationship between mother’s authoritativeness and mastery orientation was more significant for females than for males. For Caucasian students, mother’s authoritativeness was related to mastery performance and father’s authoritarianism was related to performance orientation. For the female African American sample, mother’s authoritarianism was related to a mastery orientation. Father’s authoritativeness was predictive of a performance orientation for the female African American sample as well.

Alyssa Gonzalez teamed up with a few other colleagues to conduct a similar study in 2002. These researchers found that both parents’ authoritativeness was related to mastery orientation, while both parents’ authoritarianism was related to performance orientation. The results also showed that parental involvement is related to mastery orientation. Mother’s permissiveness was found to be related to performance orientation. However, the study failed to find a connection between parental education and students’ goal orientations. Ethnicity and gender were included in the multiple regression analyses to find out if there were any group differences. For Caucasian students, mother’s authoritativeness and parental involvement were related to mastery orientation. At the same time, mother’s permissiveness and mother’s authoritarianism were predictive of Caucasian students’ performance orientation. For the African American sample, gender and parental involvement were predictive of mastery orientations. For this sample, females were reported to have higher mastery orientations than males. Higher parental involvement was related to higher mastery scores as well. In this sample, mother’s authoritarianism was also a predictor of performance orientation.

I would base my study on these two previous studies. The independent variable would be the perceived parenting styles for mothers and fathers, which would have three levels: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. The dependent variable would be the goal orientations, which would have two levels: mastery and performance. In order to control for the effects that parental involvement may have on the goal orientations, parental involvement would be included as a control variable. Since parental education was not related to any of the goal orientations in the two studies, I would not include the variable of parental education. Instead of including parental education, I would include family income as a variable to see if family income is related to goal orientations. In contrast to the two previous studies, I would not include the demographic variables gender and ethnicity into the study.


The participants of this study would include 360 high school students. They would be 11th and 12th graders who are between the ages of 16 and 18. They would be offered extra course credit for their participation in this study.

A questionnaire, which comprises of the Parental Authority Questionnaire and Goals Inventory, would be used to collect data. Another sheet would ask about the participants’ background information. The questionnaires would be administered during a class period and would be completed then. Students who are under the age of 18 would have to obtain signed permission from their parents prior to participating in this study.

The Parental Authority Questionnaire (PAQ) is designed to measure students’ perception of their parents’ parenting style, as authoritarian, authoritative, or permissive. The students would be told to respond to the PAQ for only parental figures who have played roles in their development. Students may complete the PAQ for both or either parental figures, depending on how many parental figures have contributed to their development. The PAQ takes about 20 minutes to complete and contains 30 items using a 5-point Likert Scale for each item. This instrument produces scores for both mothers and fathers, and has three scales for each parenting style. J.R. Buri, the creator of the PAQ, has reported that the instrument is high in reliability and validity. Test-retest reliability estimates are r=.81 for mother’s permissiveness, r=.86 for mother’s authoritarianism, r=.78 for mother’s authoritativeness, r=.77 for father’s permissiveness, r=.85 for father’s authoritarianism, and r=.92 for father’s authoritativeness. Using Cronbach’s alpha, the internal consistency estimates were: .75 for mother’s permissiveness, .85 for mother’s authoritarianism, .82 for mother’s authoritativeness, .74 for father’s permissiveness, .87 for father’s authoritarianism, and .85 for father’s authoritativeness.

The Goals Inventory is designed to measure the mastery and performance goal orientations of high school and college students. It takes about 7 minutes to complete and contains 25 items using a 5-point Likert Scale for each item. This inventory has two scales and produces two independent, uncorrelated, and continuous scores for a student’s mastery orientation and performance orientation. T.D. Roedel and his colleagues have reported the reliability and validity estimates for this instrument. The test-retest reliability estimates are r=.73 for mastery orientation and r=.76 for performance orientation. Using Cronbach’s alpha, the internal consistency estimates were: .80 for mastery orientation and .75 for performance orientation.

The background sheet would contain questions about a participants’ parents’ involvement and family income. There will be a question that asks about family income. This question would provide several choices: $100,000+, $70,000-100,000, $50,000-$70,000, $30,000-$50,000, $20,000-30,000, and under $20,000. There are also 10 items that asks a participant about his or her parents’ involvement (with 5 items referring to mothers, and the other 5 referring to fathers) using a 3-point Likert Scale with 1 representing low involvement and 3 representing high involvement. These items asks about how active a participant’s parent is in helping with homework, attending school programs, attending extracurricular activities, helping students choose academic courses, and keeping informed about a student’s progress in school.

A correlation matrix would be used to show all the possible correlations between the variables of perceived parenting styles (for both mothers and fathers), family income, parental involvement, and goal orientations. The variables that were found to be related to the goal orientations would then be used in multiple regression analyses. Multiple regression analyses will show how strongly the predictor variables (includes the independent variable and maybe the control variables) can forecast the criterion variable (the goal orientations).

Upon reviewing the results of similar previous studies, several expectations are held for the results of this study. It is expected that both mother’s and father’s authoritarianism will be related to performance orientations. Both parents’ permissive parenting is expected to be related to performance orientation as well. Another expectation is that both parents’ authoritativeness will be related to mastery orientation. I would also expect family income to be related to the goal orientations. However, parental involvement is expected to have weak or no connections with the goal orientations.

Dornbusch, S.M., Glasgow, K.L., Ritter, P.L., Steinberg, L., & Troyer, L. (1997). Parenting Styles, Adolescents’ Attributions, and Educational Outcomes in Nine Heterogenerous High Schools [Electronic version]. Child Development, 68, 507-529. Gonzalez, A.R., Greenwood, G., & WenHsu, J. (2001). Undergraduate Students’ Goal Orientations and Their Relationship to Perceived Parenting Styles [Electronic version]. College Student Journal, 35(2). Gonzalez, A.R., Holbein, M.F.D., & Quilter, S. (2002). High School Students’ Goal Orientations and Their Relationship to Perceived Parenting Styles [Electronic versionl]. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 27, 450-470. Juang, L.P., & Silbereisen, R.K. (2002). The Relationship between Adolescent Academic Capability Beliefs, Parenting and School Grades [Electronic version]. Journal of Adolescence, 25, 3-18. Kwan, K.S.F., & Leung, P.W.L. (1998). Parenting Styles, Motivational Orientations, and Self-Perceived Academic Competence: A Mediational Model [Electronic version]. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 44, 1-13.

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