Interdependence vs Independence

There comes an age at which people leave adolescence, becoming increasingly independent, and reaching adulthood. But when does this occur? After all, for the majority of people, being independent is more than simply turning eighteen. This is further complicated by the fact that increasingly, young adults require a greater deal of parental support, and are less likely to be able to be able afford to live alone. The journey for independence, seen by many as a hallmark of adulthood, is further complicated for some who may never be fully independent.  

That said, prompted by our reading, we discussed the nature of independence. After all, it is hard to proclaim any person as being wholly independent:, all human beings rely on someone in some ways. Indeed,  can one ever be truly said to be independent? 

The paper suggests at an additional developmental period following adolescence, termed ‘emerging adulthood’, during which the author believes ‘interdependence’ becomes more common. Interdependence can be defined as a mutual dependence, where support does not limit autonomy. In our current society, many external factors mean that it is increasingly rare for a young adult to live alone, and increasingly common to live with parents. The paper argued that such interdependent living situations can be good for financial situations, parent-child relationships, and even for one’s sense of independence. This is shown in those who are neurotypical, and the paper goes on to consider how autistic emerging adults can be supported in their own independence, or interdependence. During our discussion, we considered how different cultures may also have an effect. For example, broadly speaking there are two particular types of culture: individualist, or collectivist. In an individualist culture (such as in much of the western world), there is a great focus upon the individual identity, whereas in collectivist cultures there is a greater tendency for family or community structures to take precedence over the individual. We considered that it may well be that the quest to independence is primarily a struggle for those in individualist cultures, with a greater stigma associated with receiving help from family, in comparison to collectivist cultures.  

When supporting someone it can be difficult to know where the line is between keeping a child safe, while still enabling agency. For many children, their time away from parents can come from school, allowing them the opportunity to create an identity for themselves away from their parents, and then in future to be able to act alone. However, for a child who requires more support, such time away from parents is made far more difficult to arise organically. Parental fears can end up dominating a life: a person may be capable, and yet may not receive opportunities to prove themselves. In other cases, a person may require more assistance. 

We also considered the effects of technology. Technological advances have allowed for many support devices to be created, and yet some such devices leave a person unable to go about their day unmonitored. This was an interesting discussion, as we considered how technology can be both a help, and a hindrance to one’s autonomy, such as tracking apps on phones (such as life 360,) which are designed to allow families to keep an eye on one another. There are many positives to such advances, as it allows people to go out confidently on their own, while their family are able to find them in case they get into trouble, for example. However, it also does involve monitoring, and does not allow for being truly independent. In addition, it can also foster a reliance upon such monitoring, until a person requires it, in which case it may become an issue for one’s sense of confidence.  

The discussion was fascinating, and this certainly seems to be an area for which there is no one true answer. Perhaps in time as this conversation continues, people will be able to find a path that will allow for both individual autonomy, while still allowing for support. 

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