The vicissitudes of autonomy in early adolescence.

L. Steinberg, S. B. Silverberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A sample of 865 10-16-year-olds from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds completed a questionnaire battery concerning 3 aspects of autonomy: emotional autonomy in relationship with parents, resistance to peer pressure, and the subjective sense of self-reliance. The observed patterns of relations among the measures cast doubt on the notion that autonomy is a unidimensional trait manifested similarly across a variety of situations. For most boys and girls, the transition from childhood into adolescence is marked more by a trading of dependency on parents for dependency on peers, rather than straightforward and unidimensional growth in autonomy. Moreover, contrary to long-standing notions about the greater salience of autonomy to adolescent males than to females, girls score higher than boys on all 3 measures of autonomy at all age levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)841-851
Number of pages11
JournalChild development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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