Autonomy and Relatedness in Mainland Chinese Adolescents: Social or Personal? Accommodation or Distinctiveness?
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Three studies comprised the current research program, in which the major goals were to propose and validate empirically the proposed two-level (universal and culture-specific) model of both autonomy and relatedness, as well as to develop reliable and valid measures for these two constructs. In Study 1, 143 mainland Chinese adolescents were asked open-ended questions about their understanding of autonomy and relatedness in three social contexts (peer, family, school). Chinese youth’s responses captured universal and culturally distinctive forms of autonomy (personal vs. social) and relatedness (accommodation vs. distinctiveness), according to a priori criteria based on the theoretical frameworks. Also, scenarios designed to reflect culture-specific forms of autonomy and relatedness suggested their relevance to Chinese adolescents. With a second sample of 201 mainland Chinese youth, in Study 2, the obtained autonomy and relatedness descriptors were formulated into scale items. Those items were subject to refinement analyses to examine their psychometric properties and centrality to Chinese youth. The findings of Study 1 scenarios were replicated in Study 2. The primary goal of Study 3 was to test empirically the proposed two-level (universal and culture-specific) models of both autonomy and relatedness, using the measures derived from Studies 1 and 2. A third sample of 465 mainland Chinese youth completed a questionnaire booklet consisting of autonomy and relatedness scales and scenarios and achievement motivation orientations measures. A series of confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) autonomy and relatedness measurement models (first-order and second-order), as well as structural models linking culture-specific forms of autonomy and relatedness and achievement motivation orientations, were conducted. The first-order measurement models based on scale and scenario scores consistently confirmed the distinction between personal autonomy and social autonomy, and that of accommodation and distinctiveness. Although the construct validity of the two culture-specific forms of autonomy gained additional support from the structural models, the associations between the two culture-specific forms of relatedness and achievement motivation orientations were relatively weak. In general, the two-level models of autonomy and relatedness were supported in two ways: conceptual analysis of scale items and second-order measurement models. In addition, across the three studies, I explored potential contextual and sex differences in Chinese youth’s endorsement of the diverse forms of autonomy and relatedness. Overall, no substantial contextual variability or sex differences were found. The current research makes an important theoretical contribution to the field of developmental psychology in general, and autonomy and relatedness in particular, by proposing and testing empirically both universal and culture-specific parts of autonomy and relatedness. The current findings have implications for the measurement of autonomy and relatedness across social contexts, as well as for socialization and education practice.