Smetana et al., 2004

Smetana et al., 2004 - Child Development, September/October...

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Longitudinal Development of Family Decision Making: Defining Healthy Behavioral Autonomy for Middle-Class African American Adolescents Judith G. Smetana, Nicole Campione-Barr, and Christopher Daddis The development of decision-making autonomy was examined in 76 middle-class African American early adolescents ( M 5 13 years) and their mothers, who were followed longitudinally for 5 years. Adolescent deci- sion-making autonomy over conventional, prudential, multifaceted, and personal issues increased over time but at different rates. Mothers viewed prudential and conventional issues as parent decisions, but adolescents in- creasingly viewed them as joint. Adolescents viewed multifaceted and personal issues as increasingly decided by adolescents (with parental input), whereas mothers viewed them as joint. Greater autonomy over multi- faceted issues in early adolescence was associated with poorer adjustment. Controlling for background variables and earlier adjustment, increased autonomy over personal and multifaceted issues predicted less depression and better self-worth in late adolescence. A great deal of theorizing and research on adolescent development has focused on the development of autonomy, or the process of becoming a self-gov- erning person (Steinberg, 1990, 2002; Zimmer-Gem- beck & Collins, 2003). Although different aspects of autonomy have been identified, the development of behavioral autonomy, or the ability to make inde- pendent decisions, has been of particular interest (Collins, Gleason, & Sesma, 1997; Hill & Holmbeck, 1986; Silverberg & Gondoli, 1996; Steinberg, 1990; Zimmer-Gembeck & Collins, 2003). There has been considerable conceptual confusion, however, about how to define healthy autonomy, particularly in minority youth. The aim of the present study was to identify healthy behavioral autonomy across ado- lescence in middle-class African American families. Researchers have disagreed as to whether auton- omy development constitutes a culturally specific socialization goal. Research from cultural psycholo- gy has proposed that the focus on autonomy as a positive developmental outcome reflects the indi- vidualism of American culture and that in more collectivist cultures, individuals value relatedness and interdependence rather than independence (Shweder et al., 1998). Similar distinctions also have been drawn between majority and ethnic minority families in the United States, with ethnic minorities such as African Americans considered more com- munalistic and as valuing interdependence more than do European American families (Garcia Coll et al., 1996; Parke & Buriel, 1998). A recent meta- analysis has indicated, however, that African Ameri- cans are more individualistic than are European Americans (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002). More recent research has suggested the im- portance of defining adolescent autonomy F for majority and ethnic minority youth alike F in terms of interdependence and relatedness (Collins et al., 1997; Silverberg & Gondoli, 1996, Zimmer-Gembeck & Collins, 2003). According to Hill and Holmbeck (1986), behavioral autonomy ‘‘pertains not to free- dom from others (e.g., parents), but freedom
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Smetana et al., 2004 - Child Development, September/October...

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