Bryja, Bogdan (2012)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
Autonomy has been proposed by Self-determination theory (SDT) as universally beneficial to subjective well-being (SWB). This assumption is questioned, however, by cross-cultural researchers who argue that autonomy is less central within collectivist societies. The thesis addressed this controversy by conducting a mixed methods study with Ecuadorian and British university students. In line with SDT, the results of questionnaires and focus groups demonstrate that autonomy is likely to be conducive to SWB in both collectivist (Ecuador) and individualist (the UK) societies. On the other hand, the findings suggest a cross-cultural differentiation in ways in which various versions of autonomy correlate with SWB. Self-generated or individual autonomy correlated positively with SWB in both cultural contexts, whereas autonomy achieved by genuine self-endorsement/internalization of external influences was only beneficial for participants from the collectivist culture. Furthermore, the data point to higher levels of individual autonomy in the British sample. Finally, the findings from focus groups indicate the higher importance and internalization of external influences among Ecuadorian students. Overall, therefore, although the study reconfirms key tenets within SDT, it also suggests that the studied variables and their relationships might be mediated by cultural self-construal, which, in turn, can have implications for international pedagogical practices.
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