Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Autonomy in Families

  • Brad SachsEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_510


Independent; Individuation; Self-determination; Self-directed; Self-reliant


Autonomy is one of the three cornerstones of a healthy identity, along with competence and relatedness, and entails individuals’ capacity to be personally effective in adapting to, and producing changes in, their environment (Deci and Ryan 1985).

Theoretical Context for Concept

While autonomous functioning was initially envisioned as a quality inhering within an individual, resulting from a sequential mastery of developmental tasks, contemporary theorists and clinicians find it more useful to view autonomy as bi-directionally connected with the capacity for relatedness (McGoldrick et al. 2011). In other words, the more comfortable one feels about being separate, the better one can connect with others, and vice versa. From a family development standpoint, the process of differentiating from one’s family of origin creates the space for autonomy, leading to an increasingly elective and...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stevens Forest Professional CenterColumbiaUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Rachel Diamond
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Saint JosephWest HarfordUSA