Developmental Patterns in Decision-Making Autonomy Across Middle Childhood and Adolescence: European American Parents’ Perspectives

Document Type



Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (CGU)

Publication Date



Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Longitudinal patterns in parents’ reports of youth decision-making autonomy from ages 9 to 20 were examined in a study of 201 European American families with 2 offspring. Multilevel modeling analyses revealed that decision-making autonomy increased gradually across middle childhood and adolescence before rising sharply in late adolescence. Social domain theory was supported by analyses of 8 decision types spanning prudential, conventional, personal, and multifaceted domains. Decision making was higher for girls, youth whom parents perceived as easier to supervise, and youth with better educated parents. Firstborns and secondborns had different age-related trajectories of decision-making autonomy. Findings shed light on the developmental trajectories and family processes associated with adolescents’ fundamental task of gaining autonomy.

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© 2010 Laura Wray-Lake, Ann C. Crouter, and Susan M. McHale. Journal Compilation © 2010 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.

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