Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > A Longitudinal Study of the Domain-Specificity of Ability and Effort Attributions in African American Students

Students’ causal attributions about the reasons underlying their academic successes and failures influence their academic motivation and subsequent achievement. We investigated whether students’ attributions vary across academic subjects, and whether such domain-generality or specificity changes with development. African American students (N = 565) reported their causal attributions for math, science, and English successes longitudinally from elementary to high school. Structural equation modeling showed that individual differences in students’ tendencies to attribute successes to ability and effort were domain-general, not differing across academic content areas. The lack of domain-specificity in attributions suggests that African American students may view academic outcomes as a single achievement domain rather than differentiating among school subjects. Students may cope with race related stresses, such as discrimination and negative stereotypes, by uniformly making adaptive attributions about their successes.