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Relations of autonomy and relatedness to school functioning and psychological adjustment during adolescence Buote, Carol Anne

Abstract

One criticism of previous work in the field of adolescent development has been the paucity of research examining the unique and combined contributions of different developmental contexts on adolescents' functioning. In an attempt to address this issue, the current study examined adolescents' perceptions of autonomy and relatedness within parent, peer, and school contexts in relation to school functioning and psychological adjustment. Adolescents (N = 478) in Grades 8, 9, and 11 completed self-report questionnaires assessing feelings about their relationships with parents and peers, and perceptions of school. Teachers completed ratings of adolescents' strengths and competencies. Academic achievement was assessed using end of year school grades. Results revealed several significant gender and grade differences. Whereas girls reported greater deidealization of their parents and peers, and higher quality of attachment to peers than did boys, boys- reported being less dependent on their peers than did girls. Overall, adolescents in grade nine were more dependent on their peers and reported more trust and communication in their peer relationships than did adolescents in grade eight. Correlational results indicated that school functioning was positively associated with school autonomy, parental attachment, peer attachment and school belonging, and that problems in psychological adjustment were negatively associated with peer autonomy, school autonomy, parental attachment, peer attachment, school belonging, and positively associated with parental autonomy. Results of the multiple regression analyses indicated that autonomy and relatedness variables accounted for significant amounts of variance in GPA, teacher-rated school competencies, internalizing problems, and externalizing problems. Analyses also revealed variables which uniquely predicted areas of functioning across contexts and gender. This cross-sectional study provides new theoretical insights regarding relations of autonomy and relatedness to school functioning and psychological adjustment during adolescence across multiple contexts. The findings contribute to a more thorough understanding of the dimensions of autonomy and relatedness that may have important implications for educators and parents of adolescents for improving educational practice and for promoting school success and positive adjustment.

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