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Challenges for Parents when a Child wants Greater Autonomy

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Childcare
Wordcount: 2935 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Describe whether and what new challenges parents may face when the child starts to seek a greater autonomy. Identify and describe one developmental theory to explain how these new challenges emerge and unfold from late childhood to late adolescence, and how parents or professionals could help parents and adolescents deal with the challenges.

Autonomy is the Erikson (Broderick 2015) concept of self determination or “I can do it by myself”. This stage starts during toddlerhood. It is important in this phase to allow the child to process through the tasks that they can do themselves to help them gain a sense of control and self-worth. Parents exerting too much control and not allowing the child to explore and practice can lead to a sense of shame, or that they are not capable of performing such tasks. It can also create resentment and refusal to accept authority because they are under too much control. On the other hand, too little control by the parent can lead to the child being put in danger by not having adequate borders to their exploration. Also, the child may not know how to submit to adequate borders at an older age when they are added.

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It is important to allow a child to practice the developmental tasks at the appropriate time and it is important for the parent to provide the right level of support. For example, a child will need first to understand that they are capable of exploring their environment, self-feeding, even if they make a mess. The feeling of success can help them tackle the next challenge of potty training. They may go from one task to the next with a greater sense of self ability. One autonomous success will help the child believe they can be successful at the next task they need to master. Later in adolescence, children must learn skills to help them manage their own lives and make healthy choices. Autonomy at this age is a sense of self-governance, responsibility, independence and decision-making. Autonomy at this age may look like choice of hair style, the way they keep their bedroom, the clothes they wear, activities they participate in, whom they date, what they spend their money on, and many more. Parents of adolescent children can support their child’s autonomy by being loving, warm, firm, fair, having consistent rules, discuss more adult topics and take their view points seriously, and allow them to experience the connection between action and natural consequence in a loving and supportive manner.

Autonomy is an important theme that continues through development. A study at The University of Minnesota (Sroufe, Fox, & Pancake, 1983) ranked children in characteristic related to autonomy, such as attention seeking, extreme reliance on the teacher, and involvement with teachers at the expense of peers. They found that toddlers who were securely attached infants are found in later ages by teacher to be direct, exhibit appropriate dependency behaviors by seeking help when they realistically need it and functioning independently when necessary. In contrast, insecurely attached children are indirect, more likely to act helpless, act out for attention, or passively not seek help when needed. This continues on as these children age. This study also found that by age ten securely attached children had greater confidence, more friend and better social skills. By age sixteen, children with secure infant attachments were more likely to trust a best friend and by twenty these children were able to resolve conflict with romantic partners. Adolescence is a tumultuous time for children and their parents. Children will begin to assert their desire for increased independence. Parents may feel this push for independence means that the child no longer needs the parent. That could not be any farther from the truth. Appropriate parental involvement is critical at the stage of development. Parents still to need to provide room to grow with a safety net. At each stage of development, the room gets a little larger and the safety net a little smaller.

Parents and professionals can help adolescents deal with challenges by providing them with experiences that allow them to grow to master autonomy and self-efficacy. There are forums for parent education and discussion groups that can help parents learn about developmental needs of children. These can help them to support their strengths and strengthen their weaknesses. Conversational language is an important topic relevant to the self-concept of development. It is an important educational topic to parents to learn about the implications of the language they use when talking with their children. Insensitive language can lead to shame in the child and must be avoided so they do not become part of the child’s self-concept. An environment rich with appropriate love and limits provides the child with the ability to grow a healthy self-system. When the environment is not filled with appropriate love and limits the child will make adaptations that will cause harm to the child’s developing true self. The growth of a child’s authentic self starts in infancy. The fostering of this growth should start in infancy and continue throughout development to start the child on the developmental path that will lead to healthy functioning at ever developmental stage in the future. Parents and professionals who help adolescents can discourage rebellion that may have been created in their youth by talking to the children about the changes they are experiencing and what these changes mean to the child, their family, and the larger world around them. The adults in the adolescent’s life can come to a better understanding of the child’s point of view by careful listening. This will allow the adults to respond in an understanding and appreciative way.

Explain the process of the dual-process model and the “selective optimization with compensation” model that describe how individuals deal with loss and grief. Provide a clear example of each process.

The dual-process model was proposed by Stroebe and Schut (1999). It defines the process of grief as a process that bounces back and forth between two different ways of dealing with loss. These are approach and avoidance coping strategies. The approaching, thinking about grief, and avoiding, withdrawing from the raw and painful emotions of grief. These strategies are contained within a flexible framework that allows the individual to go from one to the other. The approach is the movement of the individual toward and a recognition of the grief. The avoidance is the distancing of the individual from the grief to provide a protective respite. These coping strategies can be loss focused or restoration focused. The loss focused approach can cause great distress by creating excessive preoccupation on the loss. The loss focused process is the emotion focused strategy of coping. The restoration focused approach is the, almost opposite, of loss focused. During the restoration focused approach, the individual is able to disentangle their thoughts from their grief and attend to the necessary day to day tasks. This disentanglement allows for a distraction that mitigates the periods of loss focused distress. The restoration process is the problem focused strategy of coping. The individual will bounce back and forth between the loss focused and restoration focused coping strategies. The oscillation between these two states provides, over time, a type of grief desensitization.

This can be explained by the example of a person experiencing grief and alternating between approach and avoidance coping strategies. For example, a person has experienced the death of a parent. I recently lost my mother. It has been just over a year and at times the grief is very strong and almost overpowering. I would be immobile for anywhere from hours to days. But, eventually, some necessary task would pull me from my grief. It has been a very difficult first year. A person can only exist in this way for short periods of time. They must then attend to the tasks of the living. They must go to work, care for their families and home. The grief is still with them and they still think about it often. But, through necessity, they have to push the intensity away to a point they can still, for the most part, manage the necessary day to day tasks of life. They cannot escape the grief, even in the day to day task. These tasks are constant reminders of their loss, such as the holidays for which the deceased are not there and the traditions that have to be reimagined or replaced because the central person, they were created around, is no longer there. Then, when they feel strong enough, they approach the loss they are experiencing and again it is very strong and overpowering, but just a little less than it was.

Selective optimization with compensation is the bringing together the three process of selection, optimization and compensation. Selection is the limiting activities to a few that are particularly rewarding. For example, a person at retirement would choose what activities to participate in during this time. If they were very active, they may have to choose fewer active ways to spend their time to account for the physical restrictions age causes. Optimization is the finding of ways of enhancing achievement of remaining goals. For example, a person may have the goal of spending more time with their grandchildren. They may need to enhance this selection by moving closer to their grandchildren or buying a car that will have the increased number of seats to accommodate their grandchildren. Compensation is the finding of new means to achieve our ends. For example, a person may have to exclusively use a golf cart to continue to participate in their passion for the game once age have limited their mobility.

Selection is important at all stages of development. It is the process of making choices. For example, the choice of college to attend, degree to pursue, career to start, selection of a life partner, whether or not to marry, whether or not to have children, where to live, what to do in your free time, and an unlimited number of other choices to be made throughout an individual’s life. Optimization is about enhancing the selections an individual has made. It is about how an individual can improve the choices they made. For example, if an individual has selected to have a family, they may choose to enhance their lives by buying a car and or house that will easier accommodate more people. Compensation is about overcoming loss to meet the same goal. For example, if an individual has selected the career of actor but they became blind, they could compensate by learning to read their lines in braille. These three concepts combined lead to successful development by promoting autonomy, competence and relatedness. An individual uses two control strategies to meet their needs and face the challenges life brings. Primary control is the control that an individual can exert. This type of control is what is evidenced in selection and optimization. Secondary control is the type of control an individual can take when meeting challenges they cannot change. This type of control is evidenced in compensation.

For an example, my mother-in-law is at a changing period of time in her life. She is a widow. She has made the choice to move to Texas to live either with or near us. This will provide her with much needed companionship and a new beginning for her new life of a widowed retired person. To enhance this selection, she has decided to build a house on our property so she can be very close to us. This will give her better proximity to spend time with her grandchildren and also be closer to us so we can provide support. This was not her original plan for retirement.

She has overcome the loss of her husband and her compensation was to reimagine her retirement to accommodate the loss of her husband.

Describe with examples and frequent reference to relevant models of the development of “adaptation” from adolescence to late adulthood. Use one developmental theory to account for the development you describe. Be as concrete as possible and use very specific examples. You can, but do not have to, draw upon your professional experience or future careers when describing examples.

One theory used to explain adaptation is the life span developmental theory. It defines development as a process of adapting to the constant flux of influences in our lives. There are three kinds of adaptations. They are growth, resilience and regulation of loss. These three kinds of adaptation are seen across the life span. Growth is the addition of new characteristics, understandings and skills. Resilience is the ability to find news ways to continue functioning after loss. Regulation of loss is adjusting expectations to accept a lower level of functioning.

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An example of these could be explained by sharing parts of my own life. I have been diagnosed with a few different health problems. Because of these health problems I am no longer able to do many of the things in life I used to enjoy very much. I had a farm and would breed, care for, and sell many different kinds of animals. I had geese, chickens, turkeys, sheep, and rabbits. Caring for these animals was very physically demanding. I could no longer expend that much physical activity so I had to stop farming. It was a very difficult thing to do. I experience regulation adaptation by adjusting my expectations and accepting my lower lever of functioning. I can no longer be a farmer, but I greatly enjoyed farming when I could. I have been able to move on with my life and accept my new way of being. My life can also provide an example of resilience adaptation. I was in a car accident in 2014 that left me unable to perform in my previous line of work. I was a web designer. It has taken a while to build myself back up. Even though I cannot sit at a computer all day, I have found a new way to have a job and be productive in society. I am going to school to become a counselor. This new career will allow me to rejoin the workforce, but in a way the allows for my disabilities. The last kind of adaptation I can apply to my life experiences is growth. I have used regulation and resilience to teach me things about life and myself. I have also learned a new set of skills during my master’s program for clinical mental health counseling.

Self-determination theory is another theory that talks about adaptation. It states that autonomy, competence and relatedness motivate adaptation across the lifespan. Autonomy, competence and relatedness are basic needs of individuals. Autonomy is being in control of oneself. Competence is the feeling of being effective. Relatedness is the feeling that you are important to others. If these needs are not meet, that creates stress in the individual’s life. These three needs come together and cause change when they are not met by the individual seeking to relieve the stress. If a person feels that they are not in control they may then make changes or adaptations to gain further control. If a person feels incompetent, they may then make changes or adaptations to gain competence. If a person does not feel related then they may then make changes or adaptations to increase their sense of relatedness. Dattlio et.al. (2018) looked at self-determination theory to understand adaptation among older adults. They state that adaptations were like a category of themes. These themes related to autonomy, competence and relatedness. An example of autonomy was maintaining a healthy lifestyle, competence was learning a new skill, and relatedness was making changes that more easily enabled proximity to family.

For example, a person has a health issues that limits their mobility and that challenges the ability to live alone. Living alone may increase the individual’s autonomy. This person may exhibit adaptation by buying an electric scooter to increase their mobility thereby assuring their ability to live alone which in turn increases their autonomy. An example of an adaptation for competence could be of an individual who has, because of their age, developed the need for help keeping track of their medications. This individual could learn how to use a new electronic medication manager. Relatedness can be further explained by the example of an individual moving closer to family to increase the time the can spend with them.


  • Broderick, Patricia C. (2015). The life span: human development for helping professionals / Patricia C. Broderick, Pamela Blewitt. — Fourth edition.
  • John Dattilo, Jacqueline Mogle, Amy E. Lorek, Sara Freed & Margaret Frysinger (2018) Using Self-determination Theory to Understand Challenges to Aging, Adaptation, and Leisure among Community-dwelling Older Adults,Activities, Adaptation & Aging,42:2,85-103,DOI:10.1080/01924788.2017.1388689
  • Sroufe, L. A., Fox, N. E., & Pancake, V. R. (1983). Attachment and dependency in developmental perspective. Child Development, 54, 1615–1627.


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