In This Chapter

The Relevance of Expectancy–Value Theory to Understanding the Motivation and Achievement of Students with Cognitive 
and Emotional Special Needs

Focus on Depression and Anxiety

Authored by: Allan Wigfield , Annette Ponnock

Handbook of Educational Psychology and Students with Special Needs

Print publication date:  February  2020
Online publication date:  February  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138295421
eBook ISBN: 9781315100654
Adobe ISBN:


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In this chapter, we discuss how Eccles and colleagues’ expectancy–value theory (now labeled situated expectancy–value theory, or SEVT), a long-standing theory in the motivation field, can contribute to the understanding of the development of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents. We focus on Eccles and colleagues’ SEVT model because it has guided much of the recent EVT-based research. We begin the chapter with definitions of the basic belief and value constructs in SEVT, how they develop across the school years, and how they impact students’ performance and choice. We next define anxiety and depression both in terms of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (5th ed.; DSM-5) criteria and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) definitions, and we review research on the development of each. Following this, we discuss how parents’ beliefs and behaviors (such as their beliefs about their children’s ability and ways they get involved with their children’s schoolwork) can impact the development of anxiety and depression. We then turn to how teacher–student relationships, teachers’ expectancies for students’ success, and certain factors in the school environment can impact the development of anxiety and depression. Implications for educational practice are discussed, with a specific focus on school-based intervention programs designed to reduce children’s anxiety and depression. We conclude with suggestions for future research, emphasizing ways that SEVT can guide work on better understanding and addressing anxiety and depression.

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