Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 39, Issue 11, pp 1343–1356 | Cite as

Why do Adolescents Gather Information or Stick to Parental Norms? Examining Autonomous and Controlled Motives Behind Adolescents’ Identity Style

  • Ilse Smits
  • Bart Soenens
  • Maarten Vansteenkiste
  • Koen Luyckx
  • Luc Goossens
Empirical Research


Self-determination theory (SDT) distinguishes between autonomous and controlled reasons for people’s behavior and essentially states that beneficial effects for individuals’ psychosocial adjustment will accrue when behavior is guided by autonomous (rather than controlled) motives. The present study tested this assumption in the area of adolescents’ identity styles. In a sample of mid-adolescents (N = 247; 53% female), it was found that the motives for using an information-oriented or a normative identity style explained additional variance beyond the identity styles as such in two of the adjustment outcomes examined. Specifically, autonomous motives underlying these two identity styles were positively related to commitment and personal well-being, whereas controlled motives were negatively related to these same adjustment outcomes. Perceived autonomy-supportive parenting was examined as a possible antecedent of the motives behind identity styles. Consistent with hypotheses, it was found that autonomy-supportive parenting was positively related to autonomous motives and negatively to controlled motives underlying identity styles. Implications for future research on the motivational dynamics behind identity development are discussed.


Identity styles Self-determination theory Underlying motives Autonomy-supportive parenting 



Special thanks go to Gonneke Boonen for her assistance in data collection. Funding for this study was provided through Grant G.0537.06 of the Flemish Fund for Scientific Research (FWO). The fourth author is a postdoctoral researcher of the Flemish Fund for Scientific Research (FWO).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ilse Smits
    • 1
  • Bart Soenens
    • 2
  • Maarten Vansteenkiste
    • 2
  • Koen Luyckx
    • 1
  • Luc Goossens
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Universiteit GentGhentBelgium

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