Original Paper

Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 444-456

First online:

Different pathways, same effects: Autonomous goal regulation is associated with subjective well-being during the post-school transition

  • David LitalienAffiliated withPavillon des sciences de l’éducation, Université Laval Email author 
  • , Oliver LüdtkeAffiliated withHumboldt UniversityUniversity of Tübingen
  • , Philip ParkerAffiliated withUniversity of TübingenUniversity of Western Sydney
  • , Ulrich TrautweinAffiliated withUniversity of Tübingen

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Using self-determination theory as a theoretical framework, this study examines the associations between autonomous goal regulation and subjective well-being (life satisfaction, positive and negative affect, self-esteem) during the post-school transition. The sample consisted of 2,284 academic track students (62 % female) in Germany who answered a questionnaire at the end of high school and again 2 years later, allowing us to differentiate three post-school trajectories (university, vocational training, not in education). Structural equation modeling showed that autonomous goal regulation measured at Time 1 positively predicted Time 2 life satisfaction, positive affect, self-esteem, and autonomous goal regulation and negatively predicted negative affect, controlling for construct stability. However, subjective well-being indicators at Time 1 did not predict autonomous goal regulation at Time 2. Multigroup analyses indicated comparable associations between goal regulation and subjective well-being across groups, highlighting the strength and generalizability of the effect of autonomous goal regulation on subjective well-being during the post-school transition.


Self-determination theory Personal goals Well-being Post-school transition