Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Autonomy, Adolescence, Attachment, Meaning Making

Major Advisor

Julie Wargo Aikins,Ph.D.

Co-Major Advisor

Kimberli Treadwell, Ph.D

Associate Advisor

Rhiannon Smith, Ph.D.

Associate Advisor

See above

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The primary goal of this study was to examine the impact of autonomy, maternal co-construction, and attachment representations on early adolescents’ meaning making. Meaning making is important for positive coping and developing a sense of self. Among 51 low-risk early adolescents, a high rate of unresolved (38%) and a low rate of secure (4%) attachment representations occurred. In the present sample, the amount of new information that a mother contributed to the conversation (i.e., elaborations) was found to significantly differentiate those adolescents who were judged to have made meaning from those who did not make meaning. Otherwise, autonomy and both adolescent and maternal attachment did not significantly contribute to meaning making. Whereas these results provide preliminary evidence for some role of maternal co-construction in early adolescent meaning making, discussion will also suggest further investigation into the function of autonomy, attachment, and other forms of co-construction in contributing to the emergence of meaning making over time.