Disentangling psychological control and autonomy granting; and their longitudinal associations with adolescents’ internalizing problem behavior
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This study investigated the longitudinal associations between perceived psychological control and perceived autonomy granting on the one hand, and adolescents’ self-reported internalizing problem behavior on the other hand. To shed light on the relationship between psychological control and autonomy granting, these constructs were compared concerning the strength and directions of the associations with internalizing problem behavior. Data were collected at two time points two years apart, from a sample of 407 adolescents, both boys and girls (mean age = 13 years at Time 1). Multiple hierarchical regression analyses showed that more psychological control predicted more internalizing problem behavior while more autonomy granting predicted less internalizing problem behavior two years later. Vice versa, more internalizing problem behavior predicted more psychological control and less autonomy granting two years later. Although the relationships were bidirectional, for psychological control the child effects on parent behavior were stronger than the parent effects on child behavior. For autonomy granting, effects were about the same. Comparing psychological control and autonomy granting to each other showed that child effects were stronger for psychological control than for autonomy granting. Parent effects were about the same for the two constructs. Considering the difference in child effects and the low correlations between psychological control and autonomy granting we found, psychological control and autonomy granting should be seen as distinct constructs instead of as opposite ends of a continuum. This re-conceptualization has implications for future research on these two constructs and their relationship with problem behavior.