Research has consistently identified the substantial role that interpersonal relation-
ships play in students’ outcomes and experiences at school (e.g., Creasey et al.,
Marjoribanks, 1996; Pianta, Nimetz, & Bennett, 1997; Robinson, 1995).
Consistent with this, we argue that the role of interpersonal relationships is central-
general self-esteem. The present study seeks to explore this by examining the impact
of high school students’ connectedness to teachers and parents on their achievement
motivation and general self-esteem. It extends previous correlational work by con-
teachers and parents. With a more differentiated understanding of their precise
roles, practitioners are able to administer more targeted and effective intervention
The Centrality of Relationships in Achievement Motivation Theory
A pervading theme in influential theoretical traditions is the role of significant oth-
ers in shaping individuals’ achievement motivation and self-related processes.
proposes that young people gain a sense of control through feed-
back from others and that reward contingencies influence a sense of locus and con-
trol (Perry & Tunna, 1988; Peterson, Maier, & Seligman, 1993; Weiner, 1986).
identifies the role of significant socialisers’ attitudes, beliefs, and
behaviours in developing young people’s expectancies and values (Wigfield &
Tonks, 2002). From a
perspective, tasks and assessment influence the
goals individuals adopt (Anderman & Maehr, 1994; Meece, 1991). Belongingness,
is cultivated by significant others (Deci & Ryan,
2000; La Guardia & Ryan, 2002; Reeve, Deci, & Ryan, 2004). Students gain a
through supportive communication from others and the vicar-
ious influence of social models (Bandura, 1997). From a
spective, Martin, Marsh, Williamson, and Debus (2003) have shown that students’
motive to protect self-worth is influenced by significant others as is the intergener-
ational transmission of fear of failure (Elliot & Thrash, 2004). Taken together, then,
there are clear substantive and theoretical grounds for centrally locating interper-
sonal relationships in young people’s academic and nonacademic lives.
Australian Journal of Guidance & Counselling
Volume 17 Number 2 2007
1999; Glover et al., 1998; McCarthy, Pretty, & Catano, 1990), provide instrumen-
tal help for tasks and challenges, are a basis for emotional support in daily life
(Gutman, Sameroff, & Eccles, 2002; Irwin, 1996), and are important for social and
emotional development (Abbott & Ryan, 2001; Kelly & Hansen, 1987; McCarthy
et al., 1990).
Of particular relevance to the present study, relationships are also a critical fac-
tor in young people’s engagement with, and motivation in, school (Ainley, 1995;
Battistich & Hom, 1997; Hargreaves, Earl, & Ryan, 1996; Pianta, 1998) and also
their general self-esteem (Martin & Dowson, in press; Martin, Marsh, McInerney,
& Green, 2007). It seems interpersonal relationships yield these positive effects in a
number of ways. Social interactions teach young people about themselves and how
to function effectively in particular environments. Through interpersonal relation-
ships, young people internalise the beliefs valued by significant others (Wentzel,
1999). It has also been suggested that interpersonal relationships have an energising
function on the self (Furrer & Skinner, 2003).
Although prior work has examined the influence of parents and teachers on
achievement motivation and the self (e.g., Martin, 2003a, 2003b, 2006a, 2006b,
2006c; Martin et al., 2007), much research tends to be correlational and so does not
examine the unique effects of parents and teachers after controlling for their shared
variance or other key factors (e.g., gender and age) that are known to predict
achievement motivation and self-esteem. Accordingly, the present study extends pre-
vious correlational work by conducting structural equation modelling that controls
for covariation amongst cognate factors with a view to better understanding the
combined and unique influences of teachers and parents on students’ achievement
motivation and general self-esteem.