Developmental Change and Correlates of Autonomy in Asian American Adolescents

  • Lisa KiangEmail author
  • Kalpa Bhattacharjee
Empirical Research


Although establishing a sense of autonomy has been long thought to be a fundamental developmental task, there are still gaps in literature in terms of how autonomy changes over time and interacts with other important factors in adolescents’ lives. In the present study, 158 (60% female; 74% second generation) Asian Americans were followed throughout high school and surveyed for self-reported autonomy, parent-child closeness, self-esteem, and depressive symptoms each year. Hierarchical linear modeling investigated whether autonomy changed over time, whether yearly changes in autonomy were related to changes in parent-child closeness, and whether both constructs were associated with adjustment. The results indicated that, although autonomy did not linearly increase over the high school years, intra-individual increases in autonomy were associated with increases in father-child closeness. Effects of mother-child closeness were similar, but only approached statistical significance. Autonomy and closeness to mother were each positively associated with self-esteem, and their interactive effect on depressive symptoms was also significant, which suggests that both autonomy and relatedness with mother are important for Asian American adolescents’ psychological well-being.


Autonomy Adolescence Family relationships Well-being Asian-American 



We would like to thank the schools and individual adolescents who participated in the study.

Authors’ Contributions

L.K. designed and coordinated the larger study from which this manuscript is based, conducted tests of alternative statistical models, and prepared revisions of the original manuscript; K.B. conceived of the manuscript’s initial research questions, performed the primary statistical analyses, and drafted the initial manuscript. Both authors participated in the interpretation of the data, read, and approved the final product.

Data Sharing Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


Funding for the study, in part, was made possible by an internal Wake Forest University (WFU) grant awarded to L.K.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in the current study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the WFU Institutional Review Board.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWake Forest UniversityWinston-SalemUSA
  2. 2.Stanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

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