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Liz Hausher

Clinical Analysis: Option 2


Hello Parents and Guardians! This month in our parent newsletter we are
focusing on the emotional autonomy of our growing adolescents. For those of you who
dont know, autonomy is the psychosocial domain concerning the development and
expression of identity (Steinberg, 13). When we are referring to emotional autonomy,
we are talking about the establishment of more adult-like and less childish close
relationships with family members and peers (Steinberg, 304). In this newsletter, I am
going to focus on giving you information and examples about the four components of
emotional autonomy.
To start off this newsletter, I am going to begin by talking to you about the first
component of emotional autonomy which is de-idealization. When an adolescent starts
to feel as though their teachers and parents arent always right, they have reached the
point of de-idealization. According to many psychologists, de-idealization is one of the
first steps into emotional autonomy and it is where the individual is able to see a more
realistic picture of the adults in their life, especially their parents (Steinberg, 307). This
component of emotional autonomy may take some time to develop into, and it may be
even as late as their high school years. I can remember when I first started to realize
that the adults in my life actually had a role in this world beyond just being my care
taker. I was in 7th grade, like many of your children are, and it was Christmas time. I
was sitting around the dinner table with my mom, aunt, cousin, sister, and grandparents.
My Papa started telling me a story about how he burned down a bridge with his brother
when they were growing up and I couldnt believe it. My Papa was originally going to be
a priest and my Nana was going to be a nun, so I view them as very respectable
people. I had such a hard time believing that someone I viewed as being an ideal
person for me, was capable of burning down a bridge for fun. As time continued, I
became increasingly interested in the naughty things that my parents did when they
were my age. When I got into high school and I started learning about drinking and
drugs, I would constantly ask my mom and dad what experience they had with either
one. Both of my parents were very hesitant to ever tell me any stories about what they
did in their past because they didnt want me to view them any differently.
This leads into the next component of emotional autonomy which is seeing
parents as actual people. According to the psychologist Laurence Steinberg, many
children in their adolescence dont start viewing their fathers to be actual people until
much later than their mothers. This is because a lot of the time fathers dont interact
with their adolescents in any other way that lets them see beyond their father role
(Steinberg, 307). This component, compared to the previous one, is different in that the
adolescent already knows that their parents arent perfect but now they realize that they
have a life of their own, too. This is generally the time where an adolescent starts
realizing that their parents have a work life and a friend life outside from their house life.
A very clear example that I can think of to explain this component is during my 8 th grade

club volleyball season. My parents both spent a lot of money for me to be able to
participate on this team and I hated that they werent always able to attend my games.
We were playing in a tournament down in Wisconsin Dells and it was considered to be
like an unofficial state tournament which means that all of the best teams in the state
and surrounding states were there. My team ended up getting in the championship
game of this tournament which felt unreal. Unfortunately, neither of my parents were
able to make it because they both had to work extra hours to help pay for me to be on
this team. It definitely hit me then that my parents cant always be there for me because
they have a life of their own, too. In an ideal world, my parents would have had as
much money as they would have needed to be able to afford to let me play on this
team, but thats not how it worked. After that day, I started paying more attention to the
things that my parents did outside of our house, and I really started to appreciate all of
the hard work that they put in at their jobs so that I could have nice things.
The third component of emotional autonomy is non-dependency. This is where
your adolescent will start to depend on themselves in a time of need rather than waiting
around for your assistance (Steinberg, 307). I consider this to be a very important stage
because I think it allows for the individual to become more confident in themselves, and
it allows them to trust themselves in making the right decision. It is a point in time
where you, as the parent, dont have to hold their hand for everything anymore. I think
that this is also a time for the adolescent to learn from their mistakes, as well. They are
going to start making decisions on their own and, as we know, they are not always
going to be the decisions that we would hope that they would make. It is definitely a
time for trial and error when it comes to decision making. Examples in this component
can start small and work big. A small example that I can think of personally is that in
middle school I had to start making my own lunch before school instead of having my
dad do it. He finally decided that I was very capable of completing that task and if I
wasnt responsible and I didnt make my lunch, then I wouldnt get to eat lunch. A larger
scale example that I can think of is the summer going into 9th grade. I planned on
participating in volleyball and to do so we had to do a summer workout program. I had
to be to the high school by 6 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays for a period
of about 2 hours. I didnt have anyone that was able to bring me to the gym at 6 in
the morning. My dad had to be to work by 5:30 a.m. and there was no way that as a
growing teenager that I was going to be to that high school any earlier than I had to be!
Thats when I made the conscious decision to ride my bike to the gym there and back 3
days a week. It was about a 3 mile ride each way which wasnt terrible, it was just tiring
on the way back after a long workout. My parents were really proud of me for making
that decision because they didnt want to have to change their work schedules for me. I
decided that I needed to be responsible and take control of the situation or I wouldnt be
able to participate on the volleyball team. It was definitely a period in my life where I
finally had some important responsibilities.
As responsibilities increase so does the autonomy for a growing adolescent. The
last component of emotional autonomy is individuation which is the progressive

sharpening of an individuals sense of being an autonomous independent person


(Steinberg, 306). Unlike the other three components, this one starts off during infancy
and gradually increases as the child gets older. This component is vital because it
focuses on the adolescent developing their own sense of identity (Steinberg, 306).
During the development of this component, the individual becomes more aware of how
they feel about themselves as a person. They also become more willing to take on
larger responsibilities and, along with that, they are willing to accept consequences for
their actions as well. This is definitely a period in an adolescents life where they start to
feel much more independent from their parents. I remember going through this phase
early on in high school when I had to make the conscious effort of doing my homework
without my parents knowing what was due. In middle school, newsletters and agendas
were sent home weekly to make sure that our parents knew what was going on at
school. In high school, things changed and my parents had no idea what I was working
on in school or when any of my assignments were due. I had two decisions that I could
make. One being I could do my homework and get good grades so that I could
continue to participate on the volleyball team. The other choice being that I could just
not do my homework and lie to my parents and tell them that I already did it. I ended up
choosing to do my homework and even ended up getting a 4.0 GPA because making
that type of a decision showed who I was. I was able to start identifying myself more
with what goals I wanted in life and who I was morally.
After reading about the four components of emotional autonomy, I hope that you
now have a better understanding of what your child is/will be going through. Keep in
mind that each of these components can happen at a different time and not all right
away. Also remember that this is a time where your adolescent is going to be gaining
responsibilities and making some of their own decisions. You will need to realize that
this isnt always an easy time for your child because they are in the process of trying to
develop a sense of identity for themselves. Try to remain calm when your child comes
to you after making a decision that you dont approve of. Give them a fair explanation of
what you would have done differently if you were in their situation, and maybe next time
they will make their decisions more wisely. In the end, your adolescent is not perfect
and they will make mistakes during this period of their life. Just make sure that you are
there to be a supportive and loving parent to them and everything should turn out just
fine!
Steinberg, Laurence D. Adolescence. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008. Print.