You probably noted from the Learning Resources this week the interrelationship between the processes and constructs of development, in relation to adolescent development. Cognitive changes, including hypothetico-deductive reasoning, metacognitive skills, and more complex forms of thinking impact how an adolescent perceives and reacts to the world. Higher-order thinking contributes to how romantic and peer relationships are established and maintained.
Think back to your experiences as an adolescent and the feelings and thoughts you had regarding your developing body. How did your burgeoning cognitive abilities impact your adjustment to the effects of puberty? Did the imaginary audience and personal fable have any impact on your behavior and beliefs? Keep these questions in mind as you examine the effects of physical development on adolescents in this Assignment.
Berk, L. E. (2018). Development through the lifespan (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
- Chapter 11, “Physical and Cognitive Development in Adolescence” (pp. 366-403)
- Chapter 12, “Emotional and Social Development in Adolescence” (pp. 406-432)
ournal of Multicultural counseling and developMent • April 2015 • Vol. 43 109
© 2015 American Counseling Association. All rights reserved.
Received 04/01/13 Revised 06/08/14
Accepted 09/12/14 doi: 10.1002/j.2161-1912.2015.00068.x
Cultural and Cognitive Predictors of Academic Motivation Among
Mexican American Adolescents: Caution Against Discounting the
Impact of Cultural Processes Brandy Piña-Watson, Belem López, Lizette Ojeda,
and Kimberly M. Rodriguez
This study examined the role of cognitive (i.e., grit, hope, and academic skepticism) and cultural variables (i.e., generational status, familismo, ethnic identity, and bicultural stress) on academic motivation among 181 Mexican American adolescents. Results indicated that hope, grit, and familismo positively predicted academic motivation. Conversely, academic skepticism and bicultural stress negatively predicted academic motivation. This study demonstrates that culture is important to consider above and beyond cognitive variables. Implications for practice and research are discussed.
Keywords: Mexican American, familismo, bicultural stress
Este estudio examinó la influencia que ejercen las variables cognitivas (determi- nación, esperanza y escepticismo académico) y culturales (estatus generacional, familismo, identidad étnica y estrés bicultural) sobre la motivación académica en 181 adolescentes mexicano-americanos. Los resultados indicaron que la esperanza, la determinación y el familismo pronosticaron positivamente la motivación académica. Y a la inversa, el escepticismo académico y el estrés bicultural pronosticaron negativamente la motivación académica. Este estudio demuestra que es importante considerar la cultura además de las variables cognitivas. Se discuten las implicaciones para la práctica y la investigación.
Palabras clave: mexicano-americano, familismo, estrés bicultural
Sixteen percent of the U.S. population is composed of Latinos, of whom 63% are of Mexican descent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). Furthermore, 38% of Mexican Americans are under the age of 18 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). These statistics have implications for counselors and educators who work with Mexican American youth. For example, the Latino achievement gap has been recognized as an area of concern by researchers, educators, and practitioners (Rojas-LeBouef & Slate, 2012). Since the 1990s, Latinos have had higher high school dropout rates in the United States compared with African American, White, and Asian youth (National Center for Educa- tion Statistics [NCES], 2014). Among Latinos, Mexican Americans drop out
Brandy Piña-Watson, Department of Psychology, Texas Tech University; Belem López, Lizette Ojeda, and Kimberly M. Rodriguez, Department of Educational Psychology, Texas A&M University, College Station. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Brandy Piña-Watson, Department of Psychology, Texas Tech University, MS 2051, Lubbock, TX 79409 (e-mail: email@example.com).
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of high school at higher rates than other major Latino ethnic groups, such as Puerto Ricans and Cuban Americans (NCES, 2010). Additionally, Latino youth lag behind in standardized testing and other markers of academic achievement (NCES, 2012). Given that the population of Mexican American youth is growing rapidly, composes a large percentage of the U.S. population, and is lagging behind in educational outcomes, it is critical to understand what contributes to the academic achievement of Mexican American youth. Academic motivation is one avenue through which academic achievement may be increased (Close & Solberg, 2008). Cultural and cognitive variables can play an important role on academic outcomes for Mexican American adolescents (Perreira, Fuligni, & Potochnick, 2010; Próspero, Russell, & Vohra-Gupta, 2012); however, these variables are mostly examined separately and not in tandem. Scholars have suggested that when considering interventions for Latino adolescents, one should take into account cultural assets (Villalba, 2007). Taking a resiliency perspective, we sought to determine if cultural processes have an effect on academic motivation above and beyond cognitive processes for Mexican American adolescents. Thus, our study has the potential to contribute to counselors and educators who work with Mexican America youth by empiri- cally illustrating the importance of focusing on cultural assets as a way to promote academic motivation and subsequent achievement.
cognitions and academic motivation Cognitive theory and empirical research have established a clear connection between a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior (Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979; Craske, 2010). Markus and Kitayama (1991) asserted that be- cause each culture has unique ways of viewing the world, itself, and others, there will be differing causes and consequences for cognitions, emotions, and motivation. Research with Latino high school students has demonstrated that the thoughts people have about certain events can affect their motivation to complete tasks, as well as their beliefs in academic achievement (Close & Solberg, 2008). According to positive psychology literature, hope plays a role in motivation and may have an effect on behavior. Hope is a cognitive process that directs goals, whereby one believes that one has the capability to find paths to reach them (Snyder et al., 1997). Positive relationships have been established between hope, achievement, and motivation (Kenny, Walsh- Blair, Blustein, Bempechat, & Seltzer, 2010). One component of hope is an individual’s self-efficacy, or a belief in one’s ability to reach one’s goals. In a predominantly Latino sample, students with higher self-efficacy reported higher academic motivation through endorsing autonomous reasons for going to school (Close & Solberg, 2008). Additionally, meta-analysis results suggest that self-efficacy promotes academic performance and persistence for youth in general (Multon, Brown, & Lent, 1991).
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Academic motivation may also be affected by grit, or ambition, which is characterized by perseverance and a passion for long-term goals (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007). Individuals with grit work strenuously toward overcoming challenges while maintaining effort and interest over time regardless of possible failures and adversity (Duckworth et al., 2007). Although grit is related to higher levels of education and grade point aver- age (GPA; Duckworth et al., 2007), no known studies have examined this relationship for Mexican Americans. This quality may be particularly salient for ethnic minority adolescents because of the adversities they often face in the form of chronic discrimination and other bicultural stressors (Romero & Roberts, 2003). Therefore, our study sought to examine how grit may affect academic motivation for Mexican American adolescents. Skepticism is another cognitive variable that has been linked to decreased motivation (Próspero et al., 2012). Academic skepticism, in particular, refers to a student’s belief that doing well in school will not help him or her to achieve future success (Midgley et al., 2000). Among predominantly Latino high school and college students, skeptical thoughts about school are nega- tively related to extrinsic and intrinsic academic motivation and negatively predict GPA (Próspero et al., 2012).
culture and academic motivation Cognitions are often noted as a source of intervention that promotes adolescent motivation (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990); however, most cognitive motivation research has not investigated this relationship through a cultural lens. Failing to consider the cultural context may limit researchers and practitioners in terms of ways to improve motivation for ethnic minority youth. Therefore, this study considered four culturally and developmentally salient variables found to be related to academic outcomes: generational status, familismo, ethnic identity, and bicultural stress (Bernal, Saenz, & Knight, 1991; Esparza & Sanchez, 2008; Hurtado-Ortiz & Gauvain, 2007; Knight et al., 2010). These variables may influ- ence Latino youth as they begin to develop their identities, establish values and beliefs, and adjust to the demands of their bicultural environments. The influence of cultural variables on mental health and academic outcomes may vary in strength depending on the environmental experiences of Mexican Americans (Buriel & Cardoza, 1988). Generational status has been shown to affect the academic achievement of Latino youth (Hurtado-Ortiz & Gauvain, 2007). For example, the intrinsic value of education and its perceived useful- ness, a dimension of academic motivation, was higher for immigrant youth than for U.S.-born Latino youth (Perreira et al., 2010). Evidence suggests that later generation Mexican American youth have lower academic motivation than immigrant youth (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001; Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 1995). Not only has later generational status been shown to have a negative effect on motivation, but the stress that comes from living in two worlds (i.e., mainstream culture and Mexican culture) may have a negative effect.
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Bicultural stress occurs as a function of the cultural adaptation process. Bi- cultural stress is the level of subjective distress one experiences as one adjusts to the demands of living between two cultures. This can include stressors such as discrimination, intergenerational gaps, and feeling pressured to conform to the norms of one’s heritage culture and the mainstream culture (Romero & Roberts, 2003). Bicultural-specific stressors can negatively affect Latino youth because of their need to manage dual cultural environments. For example, bicultural stressors have been associated with more depressive symptoms and school failure (Knight et al., 2010). Additionally, for Mexican American youth, higher levels of bicultural stress are related to lower levels of life satisfaction and self-esteem (Piña-Watson, Ojeda, Castellon, & Dornhecker, 2013). Although Mexican American adolescents’ later generational level and bicul- tural stress appear to have a negative impact on academic outcomes, there are some cultural constructs that may influence motivation in a positive way, namely, familismo and ethnic identity. Familismo is the belief that maintain- ing a close relationship with one’s family and fulfilling obligations to support the family is essential (Niemeyer, Wong, & Westerhaus, 2009). Familismo is an important value in the development of Mexican American youth because it provides a source of identity and self-worth (DeGarmo & Martinez, 2006). Mexican American students may demonstrate motivation to achieve academic goals and be successful in school as a means to assist their families (Ojeda, Navarro, & Morales, 2011). Additionally, higher endorsement of familismo is positively related to academic outcomes for Latino high school students, such as missing fewer classes and putting in greater effort academically (Esparza & Sanchez, 2008). Finally, ethnic identity may also promote academic motivation. According to Erikson (1968), during adolescence, youth have a critical task of forming their identity. Ethnic identity is one portion of an overarching self-concept. It consists of an individual’s knowledge of the values and attitudes of his or her ethnic group and the affective significance and connection he or she at- taches to group membership (Phinney, 1989). Through social identity theory framework, ethnic identity may predict school achievement for Mexican American youth (Bernal et al., 1991).
purpose and hypotheses The purpose of our study was to understand the role of cultural and cogni- tive variables on academic motivation among Mexican American adolescents. Specifically, we examined the role of cultural variables on academic motivation above and beyond cognitive variables. By better understanding the variables that affect academic motivation, we will be able to inform interventions that motivate these youth toward their academic pursuits. Using a hierarchical multiple regression model, we hypothesized that the cognitive variables of hope and grit would positively predict academic motivation, whereas academic skepticism would negatively predict this outcome. With regard to the cultural
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predictors, we hypothesized that familismo and ethnic identity would posi- tively predict academic motivation, whereas bicultural stress and generation status would have the opposite effect. We also hypothesized that the addition of cultural variables would increase the variance accounted for in the model above and beyond the influence of cognitive variables.
Participants were 181 Mexican American adolescents (51% young women) who attended high school in a midsized South Texas city. Participants’ ages ranged from 13 to 19 years (M = 16.66, SD = 1.37), and they were in Grades 9–12 (25%, ninth; 17%, 10th; 25%, 11th; and 33%, 12th grade). The sample varied in generational level (11%, first; 46%, second; 16%, third; 14%, fourth; and 13%, fifth generation).
Familismo. The five-item Pan-Hispanic Familism Scale (Villarreal, Blozis, & Widaman, 2005) evaluates participants’ family values. Items (e.g., “My family is always there for me in times of need”) are rated on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Responses are averaged, and higher scores indicate greater endorsement of familismo. A confirmatory factor analysis demonstrated scale validity and good internal consistency (α = .82; Villarreal et al., 2005). For our study, Cronbach’s alpha was .87.
Bicultural stress. The 14-item Bicultural Stress Scale (Romero & Roberts, 2003) measures common stressors of the acculturation process. Items (e.g., “I have been treated badly because of my accent”) are rated on a 4-point Likert- type scale ranging from 1 (not stressful at all) to 4 (very stressful). Responses are averaged, and higher scores indicate greater endorsement of bicultural stress. A study with Mexican American adolescents reported strong reliability (α = .93; Romero & Roberts, 2003). For our study, Cronbach’s alpha was .82.
Ethnic identity. The 17-item Ethnic Identity Scale (Umaña-Taylor, Yazedjian, & Bámaca-Gómez, 2004) measures ethnic identity exploration, resolution, and affirmation. Items (e.g., “I have attended events that have helped me learn more about my ethnicity”) are rated on a 4-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (does not describe me at all) to 4 (describes me very well). Responses are averaged, and higher scores indicate greater overall levels of ethnic identity. Studies with ethnically diverse high school and college students reported coef- ficient alphas ranging from .72 to .93 (Supple, Ghazarian, Frabutt, Plunkett, & Sands, 2006; Umaña-Taylor, 2005). For our study, Cronbach’s alpha was .83.
Academic skepticism. The six-item Academic Skepticism Scale (Midgley et al., 2000) evaluates the degree to which one feels skeptical about the relevance of school for future success in life. Items (e.g., “Even if I do well in school, it will not help me have the kind of life I want when I grow up”) are rated on a
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5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (not at all true) to 5 (very true). Responses are averaged, and higher scores indicate more skepticism. A study with youth resulted in acceptable internal consistency (α = .83; Midgley et al., 2000). For our study, Cronbach’s alpha was .82.
Hope. The six-item Children’s Hope Scale (Snyder et al., 1997) evaluates the degree to which an adolescent has hope that he or she has the pathways and agency for positive outcomes in life. Items (e.g., “I can think of many ways to get the things that are most important to me”) are rated on a 6-point Likert- type scale ranging from 1 (none of the time) to 6 (all of the time). Responses are averaged, and higher scores indicate higher levels of hope. In the initial validation study for this scale, alphas ranged from .72 to .86 (Snyder et al., 1997). For our study, Cronbach’s alpha was .84.
Grit. The five-item Grit Scale (Duckworth et al., 2007) evaluates the extent to which one is ambitious toward achieving long-term goals. Items (e.g., “I am ambitious”) are rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging 1 (not at all like me) to 5 (very much like me). Responses are averaged, and higher scores indicate higher levels of grit. For the current sample, the initial reliability with all items was low (α = .66). After completing an item analysis, we deleted one item to improve reliability. These four items produced an internal consistency of α = .82.
Academic motivation. The five-item Academic Motivation Scale (Plunkett & Bámaca-Gómez, 2003) evaluates one’s level of academic motivation. Items (e.g., “I try hard in school”) are rated on a 4-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). Responses are averaged, and higher scores indicate higher levels of academic motivation. A study resulted in a Cronbach’s alpha of. 71 with Mexican-origin adolescents (Plunkett & Bámaca- Gómez, 2003). For our study, Cronbach’s alpha was .73.
Demographics. We used a questionnaire to gather demographic information about age, grade, generational level, and ethnicity. Only participants who in- dicated being of Mexican origin, or some combination of Mexican American and another ethnicity, were included in the study.
Before beginning the administration of the study, we obtained approval from the institutional review boards from our home institutions, as well as from the high school in which the study was conducted. Students were sent home with consent forms to be completed and returned to their teachers. The consent forms explained the benefits and risks of participation and the purpose of the study, and provided contact information. Only students who returned the form signed by their parents were allowed to participate. The questionnaire took approximately 30 minutes to complete, was done during elective class period time, and was administered in English. Participation was voluntary and anonymous, and students were given the opportunity to decline participation at any time. Participants were entered into a drawing for one of ten $50 gift cards to a local cinema.
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results Data were examined to determine the accuracy of data entry, missing values, outliers, and adherence to the assumptions for conducting multiple regres- sion analysis. See Table 1 for descriptive statistics, alpha coefficients, and correlations among the measured variables. We conducted a hierarchical multiple regression analysis to examine the role of cognitive variables (i.e., grit, hope, and academic skepticism) in Step 1 of the regression, and cultural variables (i.e., generational status, familismo, ethnic identity, and bicultural stress) in Step 2 on Mexican American high school students’ academic motivation (see Table 2). In Step 1, the cognitive variables collectively predicted 38% of the variance in academic motivation, and each variable significantly predicted academic motivation (hope, b = .23, p < .001; grit, b = .40, p < .001; academic skepticism, b = –.17, p < .01). Collectively, the cultural variables entered in Step 2 increased the variance in academic motivation by 6%. All cognitive variables remained statistically significant predictors (hope, b = .20, p < .01; grit, b = .33, p < .001; academic skepticism, b = –.16, p < .05). In addition, two of the cultural variables (familismo, b = .23, p < .001; bicultural stress, b = .12, p < .05) significantly predicted aca- demic motivation. Generational status and ethnic identity were not significant unique predictors in the final model. Together, the cultural and cognitive variables significantly predicted 44% of the variance in Mexican American high school students’ academic motivation, F(6, 175) = 22.22, p < .001.
discussion Our study examined the role of cognitive and cultural variables on academic motivation among Mexican American adolescents. We were interested in de-
Descriptive Statistics, Alpha Coefficients, and Intercorrelations Among Measured Variables
1. Hope 2. Grit 3. Academic skepticism 4. Generational status 5. Familismo 6. Ethnic identity 7. Bicultural stress 8. Academic motivation
M SD α
*p < .05. **p < .01.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
— .48** –.25** .01 .29** .30** .12 .48**
3.55 1.00 .84
— –.24** .22** .30** .28** –.01 .53**
4.00 0.87 .82
— –.03 –.20** –.29** .15* –.29**
1.73 0.80 .82
— –.01 .07 –.11 .09
— .25** –.10 .42**
4.28 0.75 .87
— –.03 .29**
3.15 0.47 .83
1.54 0.43 .82
3.24 0.48 .73
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termining if the cultural constructs of generational status, bicultural stress, familismo, and ethnic identity would predict academic motivation above and beyond cognitions (i.e., hope, grit, and academic skepticism). In line with motivation theory (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990), as hope and grit increased, so did academic motivation. Conversely, academic skepticism decreased aca- demic motivation. This is consistent with research that supports links between hope, ambition (grit), and motivation (Close & Solberg, 2008). As hypothesized, generational status, bicultural stress, familismo, and eth- nic identity collectively affected academic motivation. Specifically, bicultural stress and familismo uniquely affected academic motivation. Research has demonstrated that bicultural stress can have an effect on Latino adolescents’ academic achievement (Knight et al., 2010). Although we did not study aca- demic achievement, bicultural stress was related to lower academic motivation, which has been linked with academic achievement (Close & Solberg, 2008). By working to increase academic motivation for Mexican American youth, counselors and educators may then be able to increase academic achievement. As with our findings, familismo has been shown to have an effect on aca- demic outcomes for Latino youth (Esparza & Sanchez, 2008). One study with urban Latino 12th-grade students found that values of familismo related to less truancy and more effort placed on academics (Esparza & Sanchez, 2008). Our findings are noteworthy given that they support the notion that cultural variables should be considered, and can be assets, when creating and pro- viding treatments aimed at increasing academic motivation among Mexican American youth (Villalba, 2007).
iMplications for counseling
Our findings highlight several implications for counselors and educators. First, cognitive and cognitive behavior therapies aimed at increasing posi-
Regression Analysis Summary for Cognitive and Cultural Variables Predicting Academic Motivation
Step and Variable Step 1
Hope Grit Academic skepticism
Step 2 Hope Grit Academic skepticism Generational status Familismo Ethnic identity Bicultural stress
B SE B b R2 DR2
.11*** .22*** –.11**
.10** .18*** –.10** .01 .15*** .05 .13*
.03 .04 .04
.03 .04 .04 .02 .04 .06 .06
.23*** .40*** –.17**
.20** .33*** –.16* .02 .23*** .05 .12*
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
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tive cognitions and decreasing negative thoughts are important. Hope, grit, and skepticism were all related to academic motivation in differing direc- tions. Therefore, interventions such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) that challenge cognitive distortions, increase positive self-talk, and reframe negative thoughts may help improve students’ motivation to succeed in school. CBT has been shown to have efficacy in treating various mental health issues with Latino adolescent populations. For example, in a study with Puerto Rican adolescents who experienced depression, it was found that CBT treatment was able to significantly improve depressive symptoms posttreatment and at a 3-month follow-up (Rossello & Bernal, 1999). Additionally, findings highlight the importance of addressing cultural variables in conjunction with cognitive interventions. First, counselors and educators can consider cultural processes when working toward improving motivation for Mexican American youth. Scholars have noted that a cultural deficit perspective is often taken when working with La- tino youth (Bernal et al., 1991; Santiago-Rivera, Arredondo, & Gallardo- Cooper, 2002; Villalba, 2007). Through this perspective, researchers and practitioners often overlook the strengths within the Latino community that can function as protective resources. As highlighted by our find- ings, values of familismo are one of those strengths. For mental health practitioners working with Latino adolescents, considering familismo can be of particular importance. Scholars such as Villalba (2007) have made a call to the counseling profes-
sion to encourage the use of immediate and extended family as an asset in helping overcome social challenges and barriers. It is suggested that Latino youth be encouraged to look within their family unit for support and strength. Instead of viewing the child’s value of family connectedness as dependency, or some other pathology, counselors and educators should view this value as an asset for Mexican adolescents. Incorporating families into school activities and interventions can help facilitate motivation and engagement in academics. For example, Torres-Rivera (2004) suggested that finding ways to bring family members into the counseling process can be beneficial for Latino youth in developing resiliency. Counselors who engage in these types of interventions in appropriate and ethical ways demonstrate an understanding of the value that family has in the lives of Latino adolescents. Additionally, being mindful of the effect that the acculturation process can have on academic motivation among Mexican American youth is vital. Interventions aimed to increase academic motivation should be mindful of and address cultural stress. The acknowledgment of acculturative stress can have positive implications for Mexican Americans’ academic motivation, which may very well be extended to subsequent academic performance. Vil- lalba (2007) made a similar suggestion for working with Latino youth and recommended focusing on resilience among Latino youth. Counselors can work with Latino youth to reframe their skills while simultaneously address- ing bicultural stressors.
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study liMitations and future directions
Although much knowledge can be gained about different processes that have an effect on the academic motivation of Mexican American adolescents, some limitations should be noted. First, caution should be taken when attempting to generalize the findings. The participants in this study live in a city located near the Texas–Mexico border, where the majority of the population is of Mexican descent. This ethnic enclave may create a context in which the cultural processes studied may have a differential effect related to a shared cultural context. Future research can be conducted with other Latino ethnic groups as well as with Mexican American youth who reside in geographically diverse regions across the United States. Study measurement issues should also be considered. Although generational status has been used in many studies as a marker of acculturation, it misses out on the nuances and multidimensionality of acculturation. Although prior research suggests a relationship between generational status and academic motivation (Plunkett, Henry, Houltberg, Sands, & Abarca-Mortensen, 2008), our study did not find a significant relation with academic motivation for our Mexican American youth sample. Research that examines multiple domains of acculturation (i.e., cognitive, behavioral, and affective; Kim & Abreu, 2001; Schwartz, Unger, Zamboanga, & Szapocznik, 2010) can provide a clearer picture of processes within differing generational levels that contribute to academic motivation among Mexican American adolescents. As with using generational status as a proxy for acculturation, there are also issues with general questions within the Academic Motivation Scale. In future research, the use of a scale that captures the intricacies of motivation is war- ranted. For example, motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic to the individual. The scale used in our study did not inquire about the source of the youth’s academic motivation (i.e., intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivators). By using a scale that taps into both types of motivation, researchers can achieve a more nuanced picture. Perhaps by investigating motivation in this manner, studies may find that certain cultural and cognitive predictors have a differential impact on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Future research can focus on how cultural and cognitive variables influence not only motivation but also actual academic performance. Investigating the interaction of motivation and performance can help researchers and educators to develop interventions that decrease the achievement gap among Mexican American youth.
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