The meaning of autonomy: On and beyond the interpersonal circumplex

Beverly A. Hmel, Aaron L. Pincus

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67 Scopus citations


Review of existing psychological literature suggests that conceptions of autonomy as an individual difference have taken several forms. Structural analyses of 15 self-report autonomy scales utilizing the interpersonal circumplex (IPC) and the Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality as structural referents confirmed the presence of diverse conceptualizations of this construct. Two hundred ninety undergraduate students completed 15 autonomy scales, the NEO Personality Inventory-Revised (NEO-PI-R), and the Interpersonal Adjective Scales (IAS). Factor analysis revealed three unique conceptualizations of autonomy. Each factor was further differentiated from the others by its unique location on the IPC and its distinct relationships with the domains and facets of the NEO-PI-R. Evaluation of these findings within the context of existing autonomy research leads to the conclusion that only two of the three identified factors reflect autonomy. Factor I, Depressogenic Vulnerability, though relatively consistent with its theoretical foundation, lacks the agentic quality one would expect in an autonomy construct. Factors II and III, presently labeled Self-governance and Agentic Separation, respectively, share an agentic core but differ considerably in their interpersonal content. Theoretical and empirical implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-310
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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