Both executive function (EF) skills and autonomy have been linked to academic achievement in early childhood. Promoting the development of these skills may be one way to prevent academic difficulties for those most at-risk, such as young children experiencing homelessness. Theoretical and empirical work points to the important role of caregivers as key socializers of EF and autonomy development through autonomy-supportive parenting behaviors. However, some scholars have suggested that autonomy support may be problematic in high-risk contexts, such as homelessness. The current dissertation examined the proposed tension between the potential benefits and drawbacks of autonomy support in families experiencing homelessness. Study 1 was a qualitative interview about autonomy support with 21 parents living in an emergency homeless shelter. Results indicated that many parents endorsed ideas that were consistent with autonomy support, but that some viewed behaviors like offering choice to young children to be inappropriate. Study 2 was a quantitative assessment with 100 parents and their 3- to 6-year-old children to further examine autonomy support in families experiencing homelessness. Unexpectedly, parent verbal IQ emerged as the sole predictor of autonomy-supportive behaviors, and autonomy support was only positively associated with EF skills in children who had not completed kindergarten. Furthermore, the relations between autonomy support and child outcomes did not depend on safety concerns, household chaos, or familial values of autonomy support. Overall, the evidence from the current project addresses gaps in our understanding of autonomy-supportive parenting in high-risk contexts.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2019. Major: Child Psychology. Advisors: Stephanie Carlson, Ann Masten. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 116 pages.
Autonomy Support in Parents and Young Children Experiencing Homelessness: A Mixed Method Approach.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.