Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 1373–1383 | Cite as

Emotional Separation, Autonomy in Decision-Making, and Psychosocial Adjustment in Adolescence: A Proposed Typology

  • Paloma Alonso-Stuyck
  • Juan José Zacarés
  • Adoración Ferreres
Original Paper


Adolescence is critical for learning autonomous behavior; however, little research is available on the most appropriate balance of the emotional and behavioral dimensions of autonomy for psychosocial adjustment during this period. In this study we present a novel autonomy typology that combines both these aspects, which can be implemented as autonomy in decision-making and emotional separation. Specifically, examined age differences in emotional separation and autonomy in decision-making during adolescence. We also assessed differences in psychosocial adjustment associated with profiles of autonomy typology, sex, and age. The participants were 567 adolescents (296 males and 271 females), aged between 12 and 18 years (M = 14.48; SD = 1.69), recruited in Spanish high schools. Each participant filled out questionnaires on identity commitment, self-esteem, emotional separation and autonomy in decision-making. The results showed that the most advantageous autonomy profile is ‘autonomous in decisions’ (those showing low emotional separation combined with autonomous behavior in decisions) which was associated with higher levels of self-esteem and occupational and ideological identity commitment. In addition, we also concluded that the balance of autonomy affects adjustment throughout adolescence, although early adolescence may be an especially critical period.


Autonomy in decision-making Emotional separation Identity Family relations Typology of adolescent autonomy 


Author Contributions

P.A.: collaborated with the design of study, data collection, and writing the first manuscript draft; J.J.Z.: designed and executed the study and wrote and edited the manuscript up to its final draft; A.F.: analyzed the data, wrote the methods and results sections, and collaborated in the editing of the manuscript draft.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The Experimental Research Ethics Committee at the University of Valencia (Spain) specifically approved this study.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paloma Alonso-Stuyck
    • 1
  • Juan José Zacarés
    • 2
  • Adoración Ferreres
    • 3
  1. 1.International University of La RiojaLogroñoSpain
  2. 2.Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology University of ValenciaValenciaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Behavioral Sciences MethodologyUniversity of ValenciaValenciaSpain

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