Adolescent adjustment in affluent communities: The role of goal orientation and motivational climate
The goal of the present study was to evaluate potential sources of affluent adolescents' adjustment problems (i.e., depressive symptoms, anxiety, substance use, and life satisfaction). Specifically, two mediational models were proposed to evaluate how (1) parental 'goal orientation' and (2) adolescents' perceptions of 'motivational climate' in school lead to adolescent 'goal orientation' and subsequent adjustment among adolescents from affluent communities. Participants were recruited from 10th grades at three schools (suburbs of Chicago, New York, Boston) located in communities where the median annual income is at least $100,000 and at least 30% of parents had a graduate degree. Participants and their parents completed measures of goal orientation (ego and task), motivational climate (performance and mastery), depression symptoms, anxiety, substance use, and life satisfaction. It was hypothesized that adolescents would experience the highest levels of adjustment difficulties (i.e., more depressive symptoms, anxiety, and substance use, and lower levels of life satisfaction) when both they and their parents foster 'ego orientations' and the motivational climate in school is perceived to be a 'performance climate.'
Results indicated that adolescent task orientation was significantly related to fewer depressive symptoms, less anxiety, and higher life satisfaction, while ego orientation was not significantly related to any of the adjustment variables. Parent task orientation was significantly related to higher adolescent life satisfaction, but no other relations between parent goal orientation and adolescent adjustment were found. School mastery climate was significantly associated with fewer depressive symptoms, less anxiety, and higher life satisfaction. Performance climate was significantly related to more depressive symptoms, increased anxiety, and marginally lower life satisfaction. Mediational analyses revealed that adolescent task orientation significantly mediated the relations between (1) perceived mastery climate and adolescent depressive symptoms and (2) perceived mastery climate and adolescent life satisfaction. Moderated mediational analyses revealed that adolescent task orientation mediated the relation between perceived mastery climate and adolescent anxiety for females, but not for males. Possible explanations of and implications for these relationships are discussed.