Examining emerging-adults' and parents' expectations about autonomy during the transition to college

Denyelle Baete Kenyon, Susan Silverberg Koerner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our research goals were to document levels and examine the potential discrepancies of emerging-adults' and parents' expectations for autonomous behavior during the transition to college. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from 204 incoming college freshmen (n = 150 females, n = 54 males) and 226 parents (n = 173 mothers, n = 53 fathers) before the transition to college. Questions based on the emotional and functional items on the Psychological Separation Inventory (Hoffman, 1984) measured college students' and parents' autonomy expectations. Qualitative and quantitative analyses revealed (a) discrepancies on autonomy expectations between parents and college students do occur, (b) parents sometimes hold higher expectations for autonomy than their emerging-adult children, and (c) discrepancies on autonomy expectations occur across a variety of topics. Interventions could facilitate communication between emerging adults and parents to prevent possible discrepancies about autonomy expectancies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-320
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Adolescent Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Autonomy
  • College students
  • Mixed methods
  • Parent-child relationship
  • Qualitative
  • Transition to college

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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