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Wellbeing: A Complete Reference Guide, Volume I, Wellbeing in Children and Families by Cary L. Cooper, Susan H. Landry

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5

Children's Intrinsic Motivation to Learn

Does It Decline over Time and, If So, Why?

Verena Freiberger and Birgit Spinath

Heidelberg University, Germany

Introduction

Schooldays are an important and challenging time for children. They have to make new friends, will experience success and failure, will be proud and disappointed, and some of them will struggle with challenging tasks and the increasing demands that are placed upon them. As children spend a good portion of their daily life at school, experiences in this context presumably have far-reaching consequences not only for their academic development but also for their general wellbeing. Besides general intelligence, students' intrinsic motivation is commonly regarded as one of the main determinants of academic achievement, engagement, and school functioning in general (see, e.g., Eccles, Wigfield, & Schiefele, 1998; Simpkins, Davis-Kean, & Eccles, 2006). Accordingly, to meet the demands required to be successful at school and to be well equipped for lifelong learning, individuals need high and sustainable motivation to learn. Recent research, however, has consistently documented that important prerequisites for learning, such as intrinsic motivation for school-related learning, diminish over time (Chouinard & Roy, 2008; Gottfried, 1990; Gottfried, Fleming, & Gottfried, 2001; Spinath & Spinath, 2005; Spinath & Steinmayr, 2008).

This chapter addresses the issue of children's declining intrinsic motivation and discusses some ...

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