The Significance of Autonomy and Autonomy Support in Psychological Development and Psychopathology

Richard M. Ryan, Edward L. Deci, Wendy S. Grolnick, Jennifer G. La Guardia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

240 Scopus citations


This chapter, in keeping with the spirit of the field of developmental psychopathology, examines both the developmental underpinnings of healthy autonomy and the processes involved in its disruption and manifestation as pathology. It critically examines the interface between normal and impaired development. The chapter sets forth a definition of autonomy that is informed by both philosophical and clinical analyses and that differentiates autonomy from closely related constructs such as free will, independence, individualism, and detachment. Then, it explores how autonomy is intertwined with the developmental processes of intrinsic motivation, internalization, attachment, and emotional integration, paying particular attention to how conditions in the social context either support the motivational and emotional bases of normal development or, undermine these bases, leading to psychopathology. Finally, the chapter discusses the experience and dynamics of autonomy with regard to varied psychological disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTheory and Method
PublisherJohn Wiley and Sons Ltd.
Number of pages55
ISBN (Electronic)9780470939383
ISBN (Print)0471237361, 9780471237365
StatePublished - 8 Sep 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Autonomy support
  • Developmental psychopathology
  • Emotional integration
  • Externalizing disorders
  • Internalizing disorders
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Normal development
  • Psychological disorder
  • Self-determination theory


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