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                                Chapter 9

Autonomy is more than simply separating from parents- it means
developing the capacity for self-governance.

Independence vs. autonomy
    Independence- capacity to behave on one’s own
    Autonomy- acting and feeling independent
        – Independence doesn’t have to take the form of rebellion
        – To some degree it occurs naturally as teens spend more time
           away from supervision
        – The paradox is that they are still so economically dependent

Teens are similar to toddlers in their needs for independence
   Autonomy is not just an artifact of adolescence, though
        – We struggle to define ourselves all our lives
   Puberty starts the process, as teens become interested in sex
   Cognitive shift allows for abstract assessment of other’s opinions,
     consequences of choices, one’s own values
   New social roles require independent decision-making (voting,
     driving, the draft, school attendance)

Types of autonomy
   Emotional- changes in relationships
   Behavioral- making independent decisions
   Value – forming one’s own morality

How do adolescents display autonomy?
   By the end of adolescence:
        – Teens aren’t as emotionally dependent on parents
        – They don’t see parents as all-knowing
        – Much emotional energy is spent outside the family
        – They begin to interact with parents as people
              Some parents even confide in a teen

Emotional autonomy & detachment
   Freudian theory suggests that Oedipal conflicts are reawakened during
     adolescence, expressed as tension & arguments- the drive to separate
    Research disputes this- most families bicker, but there is not usually
     severe conflict & by late adolescence, teens report feeling closer to
     their parents than during youth
    So emotional autonomy means transformation of the relationships, not

Emotional autonomy & individuation
   Individuation- progressive sharpening of young person’s sense of self
     as autonomous, competent, & separate from parents
        – Relinquishing childish dependencies on parents
        – Developing a mature, responsible relationship
        – Accepting responsibility for choices

Four aspects of emotional autonomy
   De-idealizing the parents
        – 1st to develop
   Seeing parents as people
        – Last to develop; latest with fathers
   Nondependency
   Feeling individuated with parents

Autonomy has different effects on teens based on the closeness of
parental relationship
    Teens who rate parental relationship as close are healthier & better
    Those facing more conflict report more alcohol use
    Lying more to parents relates to more problems

What triggers individuation?
   Pubertal changes- when one looks different, s/he is treated differently
   Natural conflict with parents moves teens toward individuation
   Social cognition triggers more complex understandings of others &
     self- puts parents’ opinions in perspective
   De-idealizing parents triggers insecurity along with the autonomy
     (and rejection on the part of parents)
   Differs for teens whose parents divorced- they had to de-idealize
     parents at an earlier age
How does parenting matter?
   Close, nurturing families foster healthy individuation, thinking for
     one’s self
   Teens who feel most autonomous have been granted freedom based
     on responsibility
   Rebellion, negativism, peer dependency are more common among
     immature teens
        – Strained family relations relate to lack of autonomy
   Living away from home during college fosters autonomy; is related to
     more affection for parents, better communication, more satisfaction
     with parents
   Parents who exert much psychological control raise teens who are
     less individuated, more depressed, anxious
   Overprotectiveness is particularly harmful for less socially competent
     teens; sets them up for depression

Videotaped research on parental behavior
    Parents demonstrated either enabling (accepting of teen, using
     questions to encourage teen to express himself) behavior or
     constraining behavior (don’t accept teens differences & opinions;
     react with judgment or devaluing)
    Teens whose parents used more enabling/ less constraining behavior
     are more likely to develop in healthy ways- more individuated, more
    Families that inhibit individuation are more anxious, depressed
    Those that report low levels of closeness are more likely to display
     impulse control problems, hostility

Differences in parenting styles
    Authoritative- foster independence, self-esteem, self-responsibility
         – Guidelines are firm but flexible, allowing teens to express their
            needs/ opinions
         – Give and take encourages autonomy & higher order thinking
    Authoritarian- rules are rigid, not explained
         – Teens’ independence is seen as rebellion so they try to clamp
            down harder
         – They restrict teens’ decision-making, interfering with autonomy
         – Coldness & punitive attitudes push teens to assert themselves in
            rebellious ways- just a reaction to frustration, not true
    Indulgent families- don’t provide guidance, so teens are insecure in
     knowing what is good- turn to peers
        – Depending on the peer group, antisocial behavior may be
        – Parents may react by over-monitoring for the first time
        – Not true autonomy

Behavioral Autonomy
   Some rebellion is just an effort to conform to peers, not from
   To become autonomous one must be able to assess influence of others
     & decide for oneself
        – We turn to others based on our assessment of their judgment,
           knowledge, & their agendas
        – Ultimately autonomy means making our own decisions after
           having considered outcomes & consequences

Changes occur in three domains
   Decision-making abilities
        – Can hold multiple concepts in mind at once
        – Can think hypothetically & envision consequences
        – Enhanced perspective-taking
   Susceptibility to influence of others
   Feelings of self-reliance

What are the benefits of better decision making skills?
   More likely to be aware of risks
   More likely to consider future consequences
   More likely to turn to an independent specialist for a consultant
   More likely to realize when someone has vested interests
   More likely to be cautious about accepting advice from those who are

What about teens as defendants?
   Teens are less likely than adults to think about long term implications
     of their decisions
   More likely to focus on immediate consequences
   Less able to understand the ways other people’s interests bias their
         – Younger people are more likely to believe confession is best
         – Younger people are more likely to give a false confession- just
           so they can go home

Psychosocial maturation takes longer than cognitive maturation
    Mature decision making requires both- reasoning & impulse control
    Thinking is not behaving

Susceptibility to influence
   It’s not that teens no longer ask for parental input, but they decide
     what things they want peer or parental input on
   More likely to conform to peers on daily social matters- style, music,
     activities- and especially during early adolescence
   More likely to consider parental opinions regarding long-term
     questions of education, career, values, ethics
   More likely to consider experts on issues of fact- especially for older

Peer pressure
    Most powerful when parents are absent
    Conformity peaks around age 14- especially for antisocial behavior &
      for boys
    Particularly dangerous regarding false confessions
    May be a first form of autonomy
    Also may be due to increased pressure

Who is most susceptible?
   Teens from single-parent homes, less involved parents, less nurturing
   Parents who are extremely controlling or permissive, neglectful
   Nature of the pressure matters- those from authoritative homes are
     less responsive to antisocial pressure, more responsive to high
     achieving pressure
   Detaching from parents increases effects of pressure
   Parents who become most oppressive create teens who are most peer

Ethnic & gender differences
    Sex differences in levels of freedom are most severe in African
     American homes
    Immigrant families have to deal with teens expectations due to
     American timetables
    Girls report greater feelings of self-reliance before boys
    Self-reliance relates to higher self-esteem & fewer behavior problems

Value autonomy- regarding moral, political, & religious issues
   One reason teens like to get into deep philosophical discussions is
     they are trying to consider the possibilities
        – Teens become more abstract in how they think about these
        – Beliefs become rooted in ideological principles
        – Beliefs become rooted in the teen’s values, not those of

Moral development
   Kohlberg developed a theory of moral development from Piaget’s
     theory using moral dilemmas to assess moral thinking
   He generated stages of moral reasoning:
        – Preconventional- concern for self
        – Conventional- concern for opinions of others
        – Postconventional- abstract principles of ethics

What advances moral reasoning in teens?
   Teens show advanced levels of reasoning in authoritative homes
     which encourage discussions
   In which family conflict is neither too high nor too low
   In which family members expose moral arguments at a higher level
     than the teen can think on her own
   In African American homes that are committed to traditional values of
     spirituality & community
   Moral reasoning increases with age & education

Moral reasoning is not moral behavior
    People don’t always act in concert with stated values
    Those who reason at higher levels tend to behave in more moral ways:
         – Less likely to commit antisocial acts, to cheat, to bow to
            external pressure
         – More likely to be tolerant, to engage in political protests, to
            volunteer, to aid others in need
At lower levels of reasoning- more aggressive, more accepting of violence,
more tolerant of misbehavior
Moral decisions don’t exist in a vacuum
   Situational factors influence behavior (moral people refused to stand
     up to the Nazis)
        – When people perceive threat to themselves for a moral stand,
            they often remain silent
        – When people see an issue as personal choice rather than ethical
            dilemma (using drugs)
        – When protected by law or tradition (blue-eye/brown-eye
            experiments, Stanford prison experiment, Milgram experiment)

Does gender matter?
   Gilligan believed Kohlberg’s concepts excluded female reasoning
        – Justice- based on reciprocity/ respect; position of objectivity-
           the law
        – Care- based on responsiveness to human need; position of
           attachment to others
   Research found few gendered differences in reasoning

Prosocial reasoning
   Volunteers score higher on moral reasoning, are more committed to
     bettering society, & are more aware of suffering of others
   Those high in prosocial reasoning are more empathic, less likely to
     behave violently even following violence
   Girls tend to be more advanced, more prosocial due to socialization
   Best predictor for volunteering is religious involvement & having
     parents who volunteer
   Volunteering relates to social responsibility, increased value in
     helping others, commitment to tolerance, equal opportunity, diversity

Political thinking shifts:
    Becoming more abstract
    Becoming less authoritarian, less rigid
    Coherent ideology appears in late adolescence
          – SES matters: explaining poverty
                 Higher SES teens say these problems are due to social
                   factors (unemployment due to global economy)
                 Lower SES teens say these problems are due to
                   individual factors (people having problems managing
But does political thought translate to political behavior?
   Most important influence on political behavior is the context in which
     teens come of age
         – Community & larger social environment
   Minorities tend to be more cynical about politics
   Until the ’08 election, youth had been very apathetic politically
         – Interest has risen since 9/11
         – College students have become more liberal recently (probably
            an effect of 8 years of conservatism/ Iraq War)

Religious beliefs
   Beliefs become more abstract, principled & independent as teens age
   Less oriented toward rituals & customs
   More emphasis on internal beliefs
   90% pray; 95% believe in God; 40% feel organized religion is not
      very important in their lives
   Involvement in religion declines during adolescence
   College particularly affects religious beliefs (unless attending a
      religious college)
          – Many leave college with little of their former beliefs
          – New beliefs have not yet erupted

Benefits of religion
   Those who are more religious are less depressed, less likely to engage
     in premarital sex, use drugs, or be delinquent
   More likely to be altruistic, prosocial, involved in the community
   They are more likely to have supportive parents, prosocial peers,
   Particularly important for inner city African American teens

   Charismatic leader
   Iconoclastic beliefs
   Exclusion of former relationships
   Unquestioning obedience
   Mind-control methods in recruiting
   Exploitation of members’ resources
   Self-promoting of leader rather than altruistic values
Why would teens be susceptible to cults?
   1/3 of members have some pathology
   Transitional phase of life
   Loneliness
   Simple solutions to complex problems are offered.

Youth who are susceptible to cults

   Loneliness is part of adolescence since they feel great need for
     support, but don’t yet have the social skills and understanding to
     develop those types of relationships.
   Personal fable leaves them feeling too unique to be understood.
   Lack of time for females relates to loneliness in both M/ F.
   Lonely teens also report poorer relationships with parents.
   Lonely teens have lower self-esteem than others.
   Going to college associates with loneliness.

Loneliness comes in two forms:
   Emotional isolation occurs when someone lacks an intimate
   Social isolation occurs when someone lacks a sense of integrated
     involvement. This person doesn’t feel a part of a group, a sense of

Loneliness can be reduced by:
   Changing social activities
   Adding hobbies
   Forming new relationships at work and in other areas
   Adding relationships with pets