Fear of failure can create a negative attitude toward learning in young children, a new study shows.

A team of international researchers from various institutes conducted a study to better understand the different factors that contribute to a child's attitude toward learning new things in life. The researchers were surprised to find that children who experienced fear of failure were more likely to have a more negative attitude toward learning compared to their peers who weren't afraid to experiment with new things and fail.

The team of researchers for included Dr. Aikaterini Michou, (Bilkent University, Turkey), Dr. Maarten Vansteenkiste (Ghent University, Belgium), Dr. Thanasis Mouratidis (Hacettepe University, Turkey) and Dr. Willy Lens (University of Leuven, Belgium).

For the study, 1,000 students were asked to answer questionnaires related to their motivation to learn and learning strategies they use. Among these, 606 were high school students and the remaining were university students.

Researchers found that irrespective of the goal students worked toward, those who feared failure at an early age were more likely to adopt the goal to validate their ego rather than for their own personal interest and development, and were less likely to use effective learning strategies but more likely to cheat.

"These findings suggest two important points for children's optimal learning. First, teachers and parents have to be more sensitive on how they evaluate young children's competence. Very high standards and criticism result in increased levels of fear of failure," the study authors said in a press statement.

"Second, teachers and parents have to be more sensitive to the rational they provide to children to adopt a goal or engage in an activity," they added. "Suggesting children to improve their skills for their own enjoyment and development is much more beneficial than suggesting them to improve their skills in order to prove themselves. Future research would benefit from examining these ideas through longitudinal and experimental studies."

Findings were published online in the British Journal of Educational Psychology.