Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Professor Sheila Walker

Reader 2

Professor Theodore Bartholomew

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The following proposed study aims to examine self-determination theory (SDT) in preschool transitions. Transitions are defined as the collective movement from one physical space to another. SDT states that autonomy is one of three basic psychological needs for well-being. The impacts of autonomy on well-being will be assessed on 170 preschool children aged 2-6 (M=4yro) randomly sampled from two schools in the LA area. Research indicates that transitions are challenging due to improper teacher preparation and the common presence of behavioral challenges in preschool children. Additionally, integrating choice into education has been shown to improve well-being and academic success, but autonomy has not been specifically studied in the context of transitions. Behavioral challenges have been linked to academic and social delays and can begin as early as preschool. In this study, randomly assigned children in the “Freedom of Choice” (FoC) intervention will be provided with an opportunity to practice autonomy through having choice in how and when they transition. For example, a child may choose to stand quietly on the rug and then pretend to be a cat as they transition down the hallway. It is predicted that all children’s well-being will benefit from FoC, with strongest results seen in those with behavioral challenges. Furthermore, punishment (measured through the number of corrections given by a teacher) is expected to moderate the relationship between the intervention and well-being.