The major aim of the present program of research has been to examine how changes in forms and levels of knowledge across phases of a transition influence individuals' cognitive-motivational orientations in that domain -- i.e., how they approach and respond to relevant social information. The research proposed for the next five years focuses on the construction of social knowledge and its consequences for the social functioning and adaptation of children and adolescents. There are dramatic changes during the early school years and during adolescence in children's understanding of important social and personal categories. During the current period of RSDA funding, the research has focused on gender and trait concepts. During the requested period of RSA funding, the focus will be expanded to include concepts about race. Examining the processes by which these concepts are acquired is significant because conclusions about gender, race, and personal characteristics have a widespread impact on mental health, including self-esteem, self-efficacy, and interpersonal acceptance. Three major projects are planned for the next five years. First, we will analyze the data collected from a large, longitudinal test of the phase model with respect to the acquisition of gender and trait concepts, and changes in those concepts during the adolescent transitions. Questions to be addressed include: (1) What are the cognitive and motivational consequences of phase-related changes in gender knowledge?; and (2) When and why is there a drop in children's perceived competence?. The second major project involves a short-term longitudinal study of gender transitions at adolescence. We will test hypotheses emerging from initial analyses of the current study that changes in gender constructions, consistent with the phase model, occur in response to the transition to junior high school. The design will allow a comparison of alternative explanations and implications of these changes. The third major project involves a set of studies extending the phase model to an analysis of the construction of race in children. The design and predictions are derived directly from the current research on the construction of gender. It is predicted that phase-related shifts in knowledge about race are associated with changes in orientations toward information about race and in racial attitudes. Professional growth involves plans to: (a) supplement statistical training; (b) meet with experts in the areas of gender, race, and socialization and transition processes, as part of further development of the theoretical model.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Scientist Award (K05)
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Social and Group Processes Review Committee (SGP)
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New York University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
New York
United States
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