Perceived Behavioral Autonomy and Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms from Adolescence to Adulthood

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Child and Family Studies


Previous research has shown that behavioral autonomy in the personal and multifaceted domain is negatively associated with adolescent depressive symptoms. The purpose of the present study is to examine how perceived behavioral autonomy during adolescence influences the growth and change of depressive symptoms from adolescence to adulthood. Data were derived from a nationally representative sample of adolescents participating in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) when respondents were ages 11-19 in adolescence and 25-32 in adulthood. Quadratic latent growth models were used to predict change in depressive symptoms from adolescence (Waves 1 and 2) to adulthood (Waves 3 and 4) from perceived behavioral autonomy at Wave 1. Controlling for individual and family characteristics, perceived behavioral autonomy at Wave 1 predicted a lower depressive symptom intercept at Wave 1 for both males and females, White youth, and mid to late adolescents, but did not predict change in depressive symptoms over time. Findings suggest that perceived behavioral autonomy within the personal and multifaceted domain is beneficial for adolescent psychological adjustment. Results also expand our knowledge of how the effect of behavioral autonomy on depressive symptoms differs by race/ethnicity and adolescent age. Behavioral autonomy that is developmentally and culturally appropriate is discussed in order to better understand how parent-child interactions in relation to adolescents increased desire for autonomy can better foster positive adolescent psychological adjustment.

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Journal of Child and Family Studies





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