The Development of Conceptions of Personal Autonomy, Rights, and Democracy, and Their Relation to Psychological Well-Being

  • Charles C. Helwig
  • Justin McNeil
Part of the Cross-Cultural Advancements in Positive Psychology book series (CAPP, volume 1)


Children in a variety of cultural contexts have been shown to develop concerns with personal autonomy and rights, and these conceptions not only place limits on the forms of social organization seen as legitimate but also have relevance for children’s psychological well-being, consistent with self-determination theory. Although many current psychological theories relegate freedoms, rights, and democracy to products of Western intellectual traditions or cultural settings, a body of new and emerging psychological evidence, conducted in a variety of cultural settings, both Eastern and Western, and from a variety of theoretical perspectives, including self-determination theory, suggests otherwise. Areas of personal jurisdiction, choice, and participation are claimed by children and adolescents themselves as they develop explicit conceptions of their own autonomy and reflect on the different types of social rules and structures that they experience in their daily lives. These conceptions of autonomy and democracy have been shown to have functional significance for the realization of individuals’ psychological well-being in diverse cultural settings.


School Climate Cultural Setting Personal Autonomy Personal Choice Chinese Adolescent 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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