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Explaining Adolescents’ Affect: A Time-Use Study of Opportunities for Support and Autonomy across Interpersonal Contexts

Abstract

In order to uncover the reason why adolescents generally experience less positive emotional experience in the presence of parents, we compared the association of perceived opportunities for autonomy and support to adolescents’ positive emotional states when they were with their parents vs. in other interpersonal contexts. Thirty-one white, lower socioeconomic status, ninth grade students evaluated the fulfillment of their autonomy and support needs and their emotional experiences at multiple time points within a variety of interpersonal contexts over a one-week period. Hierarchical linear modeling of 1268 surveys showed that, compared to when they were with only their parents, these adolescents experienced relatively more frequent positive emotions when they were with peers, or with other adults in addition to or in the absence of their parents. Moreover, perceived opportunities for autonomy and support were associated with positive emotional experiences at a given time point. Perceived autonomy and support operated differently depending on the interpersonal context; the effects of these opportunities were smaller in the context of parent-only interactions than those involving interactions with other people. This study contributes to the literature on adolescent affect by showing that the moment-by-moment, intra-individual psychological affordances of autonomy and support are differentially associated with emotional experiences depending on the interpersonal context. Furthermore, these findings suggest that individuation-relatedness theory appears to be applicable to a relatively understudied population, namely white adolescents from low-SES families.

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Author Contributions

S.K. conceptualized the paper, analyzed the data, and wrote the paper. S.H. collaborated in designing and executing the study; collaborated in writing and editing the final manuscript. J.B. conceptualized, designed, and executed the study as principal investigator. J.L. collaborated in designing and executing the study.

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Correspondence to Soojung Kim.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of University of California, Berkeley research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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

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Kim, S., Holloway, S.D., Bempechat, J. et al. Explaining Adolescents’ Affect: A Time-Use Study of Opportunities for Support and Autonomy across Interpersonal Contexts. J Child Fam Stud 27, 2384–2393 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1092-6

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Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Positive emotion
  • Autonomy
  • Support
  • Interpersonal context