Autonomous orientation and self-differentiation
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Objective: Self-determination theory hypothesizes that behaviors enacted with a sense of autonomy allows individuals to express their natural tendencies for both differentiation and integration. We therefore propose that dispositional autonomous orientation (AO) promotes development of a self that is more differentiated. Method: In 2 studies, participants (N=186 and N=203) completed measures of AO and various indices of self-differentiation. Study 1 employed a cross-sectional design, measuring the relation of AO to four different indicators of self-differentiation: Self Complexity, a corrected measure of Self-Concept Differentiation, Role Discrepancy, and the Integrative Complexity of cognition concerning two important social roles. Study 2 sought to replicate the major findings from Study 1, but also employed a diary component to measure cross-situational behavior variability, and a longitudinal component to measure change in differentiation 6 weeks later. Results: Greater AO was related to greater differentiation of the self-concept as measured in each of four ways. It was also related to greater cross-situational behavior variability. Perhaps most importantly, AO predicted increases in differentiation variables over 6 weeks. Conclusions: While previous studies have shown autonomy's role in increasing self-integration, the present study is the first to show autonomy's role in increasing the front end of personality development--namely, self-differentiation.