Research Topic

Supporting or Thwarting Students' Basic Psychological Needs and Its Consequences: Context Matters

About this Research Topic

Motivation is key for students to direct their own behavior, thoughts, and feelings in many contexts. Self-determination theory (SDT) is a frame of reference in the study of determinants and consequences of academic motivation. SDT considers three basic psychological needs (BPN) as universal nutrients that allow individuals to advance toward adjustment, well-being, and self-organization. The need for autonomy refers to experiencing a sense of volition when performing activities; the need for competence implies experiences of mastery and effectiveness in the execution of tasks and challenges, and the need for relatedness implies to be connected with others and to have warm and trusting relationships.

There are different forms of socialization figures (e.g. parents, teachers, coaches, peers) that can support (e.g. attuning, guiding) or thwart (e.g. domineering, abandoning) students’ BPN. These social agents provide environments with very different consequences for student motivation and psychological functioning. While the support of these needs contributes to the growth and well-being of students, the thwarting leads to maladaptive and even psychopathological functioning. Therefore, the style adopted by social agents (i.e. parents, teachers, coaches, and peers) can foster autonomous motivation and internalization.

This Research Topic aims at deepening the understanding of the factors leading to adaptive and maladaptive consequences in students. Specifically, this article collection seeks to gather current evidence of the social agents' mechanisms to support or thwart BPN in different cultures and contexts. We encourage the authors to present empirical studies that provide a current overview of research in this area. Specifically, we welcome original papers of studies that:
• Include multiple informants (e.g. siblings, teachers, students)
• Analyze the combined effects of support for BPN of various social agents (e.g. parents, teachers, peers)
• Analyze the influence of social environments and consider different consequences (e.g. cognitive, behavioral, and emotional)
• Identify which specific behaviors have the strongest effect on BPN
• Explore the differential effects of maternal and paternal support or thwarting
• Provide new intercultural perspectives, as students' interpretation might be influenced by their cultural orientation
• Show the importance of competence and relatedness supporting contexts besides autonomy support or thwarting contexts besides the controlling ones

Furthermore, we also encourage submissions of studies with:
• Longitudinal and/or experimental designs that provide causal evidence among the variables studied
• Different methodologies that address whether the behaviors or manifestations of support for BPN are applied in the same way in the diverse relationships with different social agents
• Understudied samples in the literature

Additionally, we welcome manuscripts that focus on:
• Intervention programs that include a variety of social agents (e.g. family, teacher, coaches, peers)
• Daily fluctuations of support for BPN by several social agents separately and at the same time
• The quality and/or quantity of interactions between the student and different social agents
• The interrelation between SDT and other theoretical frameworks (e.g. goal theory) in explaining students’ need satisfaction (or frustration) and outcomes
• New insights into thwarting contexts and need frustration behaviors


Keywords: Basic psychological needs, academic motivation, Self-determination theory, social agents, outcomes


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Motivation is key for students to direct their own behavior, thoughts, and feelings in many contexts. Self-determination theory (SDT) is a frame of reference in the study of determinants and consequences of academic motivation. SDT considers three basic psychological needs (BPN) as universal nutrients that allow individuals to advance toward adjustment, well-being, and self-organization. The need for autonomy refers to experiencing a sense of volition when performing activities; the need for competence implies experiences of mastery and effectiveness in the execution of tasks and challenges, and the need for relatedness implies to be connected with others and to have warm and trusting relationships.

There are different forms of socialization figures (e.g. parents, teachers, coaches, peers) that can support (e.g. attuning, guiding) or thwart (e.g. domineering, abandoning) students’ BPN. These social agents provide environments with very different consequences for student motivation and psychological functioning. While the support of these needs contributes to the growth and well-being of students, the thwarting leads to maladaptive and even psychopathological functioning. Therefore, the style adopted by social agents (i.e. parents, teachers, coaches, and peers) can foster autonomous motivation and internalization.

This Research Topic aims at deepening the understanding of the factors leading to adaptive and maladaptive consequences in students. Specifically, this article collection seeks to gather current evidence of the social agents' mechanisms to support or thwart BPN in different cultures and contexts. We encourage the authors to present empirical studies that provide a current overview of research in this area. Specifically, we welcome original papers of studies that:
• Include multiple informants (e.g. siblings, teachers, students)
• Analyze the combined effects of support for BPN of various social agents (e.g. parents, teachers, peers)
• Analyze the influence of social environments and consider different consequences (e.g. cognitive, behavioral, and emotional)
• Identify which specific behaviors have the strongest effect on BPN
• Explore the differential effects of maternal and paternal support or thwarting
• Provide new intercultural perspectives, as students' interpretation might be influenced by their cultural orientation
• Show the importance of competence and relatedness supporting contexts besides autonomy support or thwarting contexts besides the controlling ones

Furthermore, we also encourage submissions of studies with:
• Longitudinal and/or experimental designs that provide causal evidence among the variables studied
• Different methodologies that address whether the behaviors or manifestations of support for BPN are applied in the same way in the diverse relationships with different social agents
• Understudied samples in the literature

Additionally, we welcome manuscripts that focus on:
• Intervention programs that include a variety of social agents (e.g. family, teacher, coaches, peers)
• Daily fluctuations of support for BPN by several social agents separately and at the same time
• The quality and/or quantity of interactions between the student and different social agents
• The interrelation between SDT and other theoretical frameworks (e.g. goal theory) in explaining students’ need satisfaction (or frustration) and outcomes
• New insights into thwarting contexts and need frustration behaviors


Keywords: Basic psychological needs, academic motivation, Self-determination theory, social agents, outcomes


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2020 Abstract
30 September 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2020 Abstract
30 September 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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