A Longitudinal Study of the Relationship of Maternal Autonomy Support to Children's Adjustment and Achievement in School


  • Mireille Joussemet, Department of Psychology; Richard Koestner, Department of Psychology; Natasha Lekes, Department of Psychology (now at the Academy for Educational Development); Renée Landry, Department of Psychology.

  • This research used the Patterns of Child Rearing, 1951–1952 data set (made accessible in 1979, raw and machine-readable data files). These data, collected by R. Sears, E. Maccoby, and H. Levin in 1951 and by D. McClelland, C. Constantian, and D. Pilon in 1978, are available through the archives of the Henry A. Murray Research Center of Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The present study was supported in part by a doctoral training grants from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and from the Fonds pour la Formation de Chercheurs et l'Aide à la Recherche (FCAR), Québec.

concerning this article may be addressed to Mireille Joussemet Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, succ.centre-ville, Department of Psychology, Montréal (Québec), Canada, H3C 3J7. Electronic mail may be sent to m.joussemet@umontreal.ca.


Abstract A longitudinal study examined the relations of maternal autonomy support to children's school adjustment. Autonomy support and other parenting dimensions were measured when children were 5 years old. School measures were teacher-rated academic and social adjustment and achievement in reading and math in grade 3. Regression analyses controlling for age 5 family and child factors (e.g., socioeconomic status [SES], kindergarten adjustment, IQ) revealed that autonomy support was positively related to grade 3 adjustment (social and academic) and reading achievement. Maternal emphasis on school performance was positively related to achievement measures but negatively related to social adjustment. Maternal use of rewards and praise was unrelated to grade 3 school measures. Finally, supplemental analyses revealed that autonomy support was associated with greater consistency in children's adjustment across social and academic domains as well as higher overall adjustment. These results highlight the developmental significance of parental autonomy support in early childhood.