Relating adolescents' identity and motivational processes in academics and athletics: the integral nature of a perceived sense of agency



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The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships among identification, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, and perceived competence within two domains, academics and athletics. Ryan and Deci’s (2000, 2002) Self-Determination Theory was examined in relationship to other theories of motivation and identity and self-concept. In addition, literature on student-athletes also informed this study. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used in the investigation of the different constructs. In the quantitative phase of the study, 425 seventh, ninth, and twelfth graders filled out self- report questionnaires relating to their academic and athletic identification, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, and perceived competence. The quantitative results demonstrated that students were more extrinsically driven in academics while they were more intrinsically driven in sports. Also, strong relationships among identification and both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation were exhibited in both domains. Perceived competence demonstrated mixed results in the academic domain while demonstrating strong relationships to motivation in the athletic domain. Grade comparisons were also analyzed demonstrating some developmental patterns in identification, motivation, and perceived competence and the relationships among these variables. In the qualitative phase of the study, 12 ninth graders were interviewed and observed over the course of three months, and their data were analyzed using Strauss and Corbin’s (1998) grounded theory approach. Their results illustrated the relationships among the context (i.e., the school) and the students’ identity and motivation processes. A central phenomenon was derived from these relationships that pointed to the importance of a perceived sense of self as agent in the affective processes that these students experienced. Students discussed a weaker sense of agency within academics and less control over the choices that they made within this domain than in the athletic domain, perspectives that were integrated into their views of their identity and motivation, and that, in the end, affected the choices they made.