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J Adolesc. 1999 Dec;22(6):753-69.

Emotional autonomy, psychosocial adjustment and parenting: interactions, moderating and mediating effects.

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  • 1Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Center for Developmental Psychology, Leuven, Belgium.


Following inconsistent results on the developmental outcomes of emotional autonomy, this study examined the consequences of emotional and behavioural autonomy for different aspects of psychosocial adjustment in the context of the parenting process as perceived by the adolescent. Measures of emotional autonomy, behavioural autonomy, perceived parenting and various aspects of psychosocial adjustment were completed by a sample of 558 adolescent boys and girls (aged 12-17 years) from the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. A continuous measure of authoritativeness was constructed for this study. Correlations revealed that authoritativeness was associated with a positive pattern of adjustment, while autonomy was associated with a negative pattern of adjustment, except for self-reliance. Analyses indicated that authoritativeness and autonomy did not interact to produce mean differences in adjustment. Further, hierarchical multiple regression analyses showed that it was only for self-reliance that the interaction between emotional autonomy and authoritativeness explained significantly more variance than a model that comprised only the main effects. Finally, path analysis clarified the difference between emotional and behavioural autonomy, in that emotional autonomy predicted only higher levels of internal distress, while behavioural autonomy predicted only lower school grades and higher levels of deviant behaviour, at least when authoritativeness was partialled out. These results reveal that it is useful to study autonomy and its developmental outcomes in the broader family context, but they also reveal the limitations of such an approach.

Copyright 1999 The Association for Professionals in Services for Adolescents.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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