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Autonomy refers to a state of independence, self-governance, or self-determination. The extent to which children experience autonomy is influenced by both the internalization of social rules norms and values and intrinsic motivation. Autonomy in childhood is best understood in terms of the child’s self-determination within the bounds of what is considered to be contextually appropriate behavior. This entry provides an overview of autonomy as conceptualized by various interdisciplinary perspectives that inform childhood studies.

Dominant and Critical Perspectives

In fields such as education, childhood tends to be viewed as a preparatory state. In this perspective, acquiring the proper knowledge and skills allows the child to gradually and consistently progress toward becoming an adult, whereas self-directed, self-interested autonomy is reserved for adulthood. The view that childhood is rife with ...

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