Empirical Research

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 1-12

First online:

Autonomy, Belongingness, and Engagement in School as Contributors to Adolescent Psychological Well-Being

  • Mark J. Van RyzinAffiliated withDepartment of Educational Psychology, University of Minnesota Email author 
  • , Amy A. GravelyAffiliated withCenter for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research
  • , Cary J. RosethAffiliated withDepartment of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education, Michigan State University

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Self-determination theory emphasizes the importance of school-based autonomy and belongingness to academic achievement and psychological adjustment, and the theory posits a model in which engagement in school mediates the influence of autonomy and belongingness on these outcomes. To date, this model has only been evaluated on academic outcomes. Utilizing short-term longitudinal data (5-month timeframe) from a set of secondary schools in the rural Midwest (N = 283, M age = 15.3, 51.9% male, 86.2% White), we extend the model to include a measure of positive adjustment (i.e., hope). We also find a direct link between peer-related belongingness (i.e., peer support) and positive adjustment that is not mediated by engagement in school. A reciprocal relationship between academic autonomy, teacher-related belongingness (i.e., teacher support) and engagement in learning is supported, but this reciprocal relationship does not extend to peer-related belongingness. The implications of these findings for secondary schools are discussed.


Self-determination theory Autonomy Belongingness Positive psychology Hope