Autonomy as a psychological need: Perceptions of Pakistani mothers

Mahtani Sunita Stewart, Moazam Riffat Zaman, Rabiya Dar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In-depth interviews were conducted with 22 mothers of adolescents in Pakistan to explore the meaning of "autonomy" in this collective, highly gender-differentiated culture. Middle class mothers did not spontaneously mention autonomy as a basic human need; positive relationships were, however, readily emphasised. Nevertheless, on specific questioning, all mothers indicated that autonomy was a basic need for both sexes. Autonomy was seen as potentially threatening to important goals for both sexes. Female kin were frequently described as an important source of restriction on women's autonomy. In raising daughters, mothers discouraged autonomy, emphasising the central importance of marriage and the attendant requirement of adjustment to in-laws. Increasing autonomy was seen as part of the life cycle as women attained seniority within their married families. Autonomy was seen as an environmentally determined and life-staged related opportunity rather than a right. The study sheds light on a universally important psychological need and its manifestations in an understudied modernising collective group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-239
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology and Developing Societies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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