, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 351-365

A Structural Model of Autonomy in Middle and Late Adolescence: Connectedness, Separation, Detachment, and Agency

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Abstract

This study presents a comprehensive 4-factor model of autonomy in middle and late adolescence. Partially overlapping sets of scales on adolescent individuation and family functioning were correlated with each other in 2 independent studies. Data for the first study were taken from a sample of high school students in Grades 9–12 (N = 601), whereas the data for the second study were derived from a sample of 1st-year university students (N = 374). Confirmatory factor analysis on all of the scales and derivative subscales in both studies revealed a model that comprised 4 different but related factors, that is, Connectedness, Separation, Detachment, and Agency, all of which occupy a central place in different theories of adolescent autonomy. Connectedness and Detachment, and to a lesser extent Connectedness and Separation, were inversely related to one another. Correlations between Agency and the 3 other factors were much lower. Results are discussed with respect to the different views on autonomy that exist in the literature, and with respect to the term “autonomy,” which should be used as an umbrella term only. Implications for the conceptual basis of the Emotional Autonomy Scale are also outlined.