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Emotional Autonomy versus Detachment: Revisiting the Vicissitudes of Adolescence and Young Adulthood

Richard M. Ryan and John H. Lynch
Child Development
Vol. 60, No. 2 (Apr., 1989), pp. 340-356
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1130981
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1130981
Page Count: 17
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Emotional Autonomy versus Detachment: Revisiting the Vicissitudes of Adolescence and Young Adulthood
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Abstract

3 studies reexamine Steinberg and Silverberg's construct of "emotional autonomy" (EA) in adolescent and young adult samples. We argue that rather than measuring either autonomy or independence, EA represents emotional detachment from parents. In Study 1, EA is shown to be negatively associated with early adolescents' (n = 148) reported quality of attachment to parents, but not to friends. In Study 2, EA is shown to be positively related to experienced parental rejection but largely unrelated to perceived independence-support in a high school sample (n = 193). In Study 3, EA in young adults (n = 104) is inversely related to measures of family cohesion, parental acceptance, independence support, and self-perceived lovability. Finally, a projective measure of parental nurturance taken by a subsample of subjects (n = 58) was associated negatively with EA but positively with perceived lovability. Discussion concerns the conceptualization of attachment versus detachment, dependence, and autonomy in theories of adolescence.

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