Sex Roles

, Volume 72, Issue 3–4, pp 150–162 | Cite as

The Challenges of Israeli Adolescent Girls: Gender Differences in Observed Autonomy and Relatedness in Adolescent-Mother Interactions

  • Efrat Sher-CensorEmail author
Original Article


This study examined gender differences in autonomy and relatedness in adolescent-mother interactions, to evaluate two competing notions. The first, based on social role theory, suggested that girls and their mothers would show lower autonomy and higher relatedness than boys and their mothers. The second, stemming from the psychodynamic perspective, suggested that girls would show higher autonomy than boys, and that girls and their mothers would show lower relatedness than boys and their mothers. Participants were 122 Jewish Israeli mothers and their 16.5 years old adolescents (58.19 % girls) from middle class families residing in northern and central cities in Israel. Dyads were observed during a family disagreement (i.e., a high-conflict condition) and while planning a vacation (i.e., a low-conflict condition). Autonomy and relatedness of each participant in each task were coded using the Individuality and Connectedness Q-sort (Bengston & Grotevant 1999). Our findings indicated that girls displayed higher autonomy than boys across the two conflict conditions. In addition, girls and their mothers showed lower relatedness than boys and their mothers, but only under the high-conflict condition. These results are in line with the notions offered by the psychodynamic perspective. They reveal the unique challenges which Jewish Israeli girls and their mothers may face with respect to autonomy and relatedness, and highlight the importance of assessing autonomy and relatedness under varied conflict conditions.


Autonomy Relatedness Gender Parent-adolescent Individuality and connectedness q-sort, Israel 



I would like to thank David Oppenheim for his support and advice throughout this research, and Ora Aviezer for her helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. I express my sincere gratitude to the adolescents and parents who participated in this research. Finally, I wish to thank the graduate students who conducted the observations and coded the interactions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Center for the Study of Child DevelopmentUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael

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