Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 42, Issue 7, pp 994–1014 | Cite as

The Jingle–Jangle Fallacy in Adolescent Autonomy in the Family: In Search of an Underlying Structure

  • Stijn Van PetegemEmail author
  • Maarten Vansteenkiste
  • Wim Beyers
Empirical Research


The construct of autonomy has a rich, though quite controversial, history in adolescent psychology. The present investigation aimed to clarify the meaning and measurement of adolescent autonomy in the family. Based on theory and previous research, we examined whether two dimensions would underlie a wide range of autonomy-related measures, using data from two adolescent samples (N = 707, 51 % girls, and N = 783, 59 % girls, age range = 14–21 years). Clear evidence was found for a two-dimensional structure, with the first dimension reflecting “volition versus pressure”, that is, the degree to which adolescents experience a sense of volition and choice as opposed to feelings of pressure and coercion in the parent–adolescent relationship. The second dimension reflected “distance versus proximity”, which involves the degree of interpersonal distance in the parent-adolescent relationship. Whereas volition related to higher well-being, less problem behavior and a secure attachment style, distance was associated mainly with more problem behavior and an avoidant attachment style. These associations were not moderated by age. The discussion focuses on the meaning of adolescent autonomy and on the broader implications of the current findings.


Autonomy Independence Self-determination theory Distance Attachment Adolescence 



We would like to thank Bart Soenens and Loes Keijsers for their useful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. SVP coordinated the project, conceived of the study, participated in the design, coordinated the data collection, analyzed the data and drafted the manuscript. MV and WB participated in the study design, helped in the collection and interpretation of the data and in drafting the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. This research was supported by Grant 3F009009 from the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stijn Van Petegem
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maarten Vansteenkiste
    • 1
  • Wim Beyers
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Developmental, Personality and Social PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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