Participation in youth programs as a catalyst for negotiation of family autonomy with connection

Reed W. Larson, Nickki Pearce, Patrick J. Sullivan, Robin L. Jarrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current research and theory suggest that the healthy path of autonomy development involves gradual negotiation of adolescents' independence within a context of continued family connection. This theory-generating study examined the role that adolescents' participation in youth programs plays in these adolescent-parent negotiations. Qualitative data from high-school-aged youth in 12 programs and from a sub-sample of parents were analyzed employing methods of grounded theory. These analyses suggest that program participation provides a pathway of opportunities for youth to exercise individual choice and develop qualities of self-reliance with parental approval. In turn, parents' observation of self-reliance in the program and youth's demonstration of these qualities in family interactions can lead to changes in adolescent-parent relationships that provide youth greater family autonomy with connection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-45
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of youth and adolescence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Autonomy
  • Parent-youth relationship
  • Positive development
  • Youth development program

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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