Interactions of gender, age, and reporter on different domains of behavioral autonomy [abstract]
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Autonomy "pertains not to freedom from others, but freedom to carry out actions on one's own behalf while maintaining appropriate connections to others" (Collins et al., 1997) and is a central task of adolescence. The process of adolescents obtaining autonomy occurs through a series of conflicts and negotiations with parents. Previous research shows that while parents and adolescents agree that issues pertaining to moral (e.g. taking money from parents, lying) and prudential (e.g. drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes) domains remain up to parents to decide well into late adolescence, and personal issues (e.g. choosing own clothes, how to spend allowance) are up to adolescents to control very early on, issues that are on the boundary between personal and conventional (cursing, manners, and chores) or prudential domains cause the most conflict and have the greatest discrepancy in parent and adolescent's perceptions of control. The present study examined whether there was an interaction between the different domains of behavioral autonomy with the reporter (parents versus adolescents), and the adolescents' grade and gender. Participants in the study were 118 adolescents and one of their parents; adolescents were evenly divided by grade (7th & 10th) and gender. Three different measures were used to assess behavioral autonomy: ideal family decision-making, actual family decision-making, and a sorting task assessing the breadth of personal domain. Generally, the present study found that adolescents claimed the most autonomy over personal and multifaceted issues and more autonomy over conventional issues than both prudential and moral issues. Also, adolescents claimed more autonomy than their parents were willing to grant, and girls and 10th graders claimed more autonomy than boys and 7th graders. Findings were further discussed based on interactions among autonomy domain, reporter, and adolescents' gender and grade.