Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1998

Social Motivation: Understanding Children's School Adjustment

Jaana Juvonen and Kathryn Wentzel (editors)
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
0 521 56442 5 (pb); 0 521 47324 1 (hb)
£22.95/US$29.95(pb); £55.00/US$74.95 (hb)
xvi + 376 pp.

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This is a somewhat challenging book to review for Sociological Research Online because it is not sociological. The book, an edited collection, reflects the work of a cluster of educational and developmental psychologists with a particular interest in the influence of peers and teachers on pupil motivation. Engagement with related social factors promises to lead towards better understanding of children's 'adjustment' in school.

In principle I would argue, greater exploration of overlaps in psychological and sociological disciplines is to be greatly welcomed, for far too many issues have been colonised by particular disciplines only to be doomed to a lack of holistic validity. A book on 'social motivation' thus generates very positive expectations. Indeed, for Bernard Weiner, writing the 'Forward', it is a 'landmark volume' for the way in which it 'gives affiliative motivation its proper role and respect' and for signalling the 'potential for a general theory of motivation'.

In structure the collection is very clear, with an introduction and two main parts on social motivation in relation to the self, and to relationships with others. In form the texts are professionally written but gradually the density of the text, the multiplicity of references, and the complex discussions of abstracted 'variables' challenge reader concentration. It is very noticeable that there is a complete absence of voice - at no point is a pupil quoted. Nor is there any exposition of context. It is hard to see how a sociological work on 'social motivation' could have been constructed without these elements. But this work has hardly any treatment of identity and issues such as gender, ethnicity, social class, power and social structure don't make the index. Sociologically then, this book is a disappointment and it is apparent that there is a very long way to go before we have the language and conceptual tools for interdisciplinary enquiry in this field.

In its own terms, as a psychology of social motivation from the empirical analytic tradition, the book may well break new ground. It is certainly coherent and the editors are to be congratulated in this respect. In particular, two summarising commentaries are provided after each part of the book. In the first 'Perspectives on Self', Carol Dweck provides a very interesting dynamic model of psychological goals and processes underlying social and academic capability. This draws on her extensive work on self- beliefs and implicit theories and is used to integrate many of the key arguments of the previous six papers. Sandra Graham provides a similar service for Part 2, 'Perspectives on Relationships'. In particular she highlights the role of emotions as linking interpersonal relationships, social cognition and pupil behaviour.

As a compact introduction to this field from a psychological perspective, this is an extremely useful book. It fits well into its series - Cambridge Studies in Social and Emotional Development. From the perspective of a sociological review, it poses more questions than it answers.

Andrew Pollard
University of Bristol

Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1998