Date of Thesis

Spring 2023


The purpose of my study was to investigate the relationship between emerging adults’ perceptions of the autonomy support from their parents in childhood with the positive outcomes of self-esteem, autonomy, competence, grit, and growth mindset in emerging adulthood. I hypothesized that parental autonomy support would relate to and predict each outcome variable, self-esteem would be a significant mediator, autonomy support would differentially predict outcomes in females, and that outcomes would vary based on socioeconomic status. Participants (N = 167; 111 females, 56 males) in a rural university in the northeast completed measures on the variables, including retrospective reports of the autonomy granted to them by their parents in childhood and their own current levels each outcome variable. In regression analyses, maternal autonomy support significantly predicted emerging adults’ self-esteem, competence, and autonomy, though, paternal autonomy support was not a significant predictor of participant outcomes. In mediation analyses, self-esteem fully mediated the relationship between parents’ autonomy support and autonomy, competence, and grit. Emerging adults’ gender also moderated this relationship as maternal autonomy support predicted competence and self-esteem in female but not male undergraduates. The results suggest that autonomy support from mothers in childhood may promote the development of positive outcomes later in life, through the cultivation of intrinsic motivation and the central importance of high self-esteem in development.


autonomy support, emerging adults, childhood, self-esteem, gender

Access Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts



Second Major


First Advisor

Chris J. Boyatzis