Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 39, Issue 8, pp 858–869 | Cite as

Parental Autonomy-Support, Intrinsic Life Goals, and Well-Being Among Adolescents in China and North America

  • Natasha LekesEmail author
  • Isabelle Gingras
  • Frederick L. Philippe
  • Richard Koestner
  • Jianqun Fang
Empirical Research


Self-determination theory proposes that prioritizing intrinsic life goals, such as community involvement, is related to well-being, whereas focusing on extrinsic life goals, such as financial success, is associated with lower well-being and that parenting influences the type of life goals that youth adopt. In a sample of 515 Chinese (56% female, mean age = 15.50) and 567 North American (52% male, mean age = 14.17) adolescents, a model of the relationships between parenting, life goals, and well-being was investigated and confirmed for intrinsic life goals. Across societies, autonomy-supportive parenting was associated with the endorsement of intrinsic life goals, which in turn was associated with well-being. Intrinsic life goals partially mediated the relationship between parental autonomy-support and well-being. These findings suggest that, cross-culturally, prioritizing intrinsic life goals is related to increased well-being among adolescents and that parents could encourage intrinsic life goals by being supportive of their children’s autonomy.


Life goals Self-determination theory Well-being Parenting Autonomy-support Adolescence 



This study was funded by grants from the Fonds Québécois de Recherche sur la Société et la Culture, Quebec (FQRSC), and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Natasha Lekes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Isabelle Gingras
    • 1
  • Frederick L. Philippe
    • 1
  • Richard Koestner
    • 1
  • Jianqun Fang
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Psychosomatic Medicine DepartmentNingxia Medical CollegeYinchuanChina

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