Family Structure and the Development of Autonomy During Adolescence

Frances M. Sessa, Laurence Steinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


This article provides a theoretical analysis of how the normative autonomy-related transitions of adolescence are negotiated in single parent and stepfamily homes. It is proposed that the development of autonomy is different for children and adolescents in nontraditional families, and that divorce and remarriage may affect this developmental task in two ways. First, when marital change occurs during preadolescence or early adolescence, it can instigate the autonomy process by initiating changes in the parent-adolescent relationship. Second, when marital change occurs prior to adolescence, it can transform the context in which the development of autonomy unfolds, changing the nature of this psychosocial task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-55
Number of pages18
JournalThe Journal of Early Adolescence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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