Background Prior research on relations between motivation and competence have focused on cognitive competence, despite theoretical predictions that mastery motivation spurs behaviour that is effective in meeting the demands of one's environment, i.e. adaptive competence. Issues of adaptive competence are especially relevant for children with developmental delay since functional independence is an important long‐term goal for these children.
Methods In the present study, mastery motivation was examined in relation to both cognitive and adaptive competence in 5‐year‐old children with Down's syndrome (n = 41).
Results Scores on mastery task and parent‐report measures of mastery motivation were generally low, but positively related to scores on standardized measures of cognitive competence and adaptive competence.
Conclusions This is the first study of motivation–competence relations in pre‐school‐age children. The findings have implications for both developmental theory and early intervention efforts, and the authors hope that they will serve as a stimulus for future research on cross‐domain relationships in atypical populations.