Relatedness in Self-Determination Theory

Relatedness in Self-Determination Theory

The organismic dialectical perspective is a key component within Self-Determination Theory (SDT). This perspective emphasizes the integral relationship between individuals and their social environment, particularly in terms of psychological needs, such as competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

At the core of the organismic dialectical perspective lies the concept of basic psychological needs. These needs are viewed as universal and innate, driving individuals’ behavior, motivation, and well-being. According to this perspective, the following needs are essential:

  1. Competence: The need to feel effective and capable in one’s actions.
  2. Autonomy: The need to feel self-determined and in control of one’s behavior.
  3. Relatedness: The need to feel connected and involved with others.

This perspective also posits that individuals possess an innate tendency towards growth, integration, and self-actualization. The interaction of individuals with their environment significant impacts the fulfillment of these basic psychological needs. In a supportive and encouraging environment, individuals are more likely to experience psychological well-being and exhibit optimal functioning.

Role of Relatedness

Relatedness refers to the feeling of being connected and having a sense of belonging in relationships with others. It has also been defined as the desire to interact with, be connected to, and experience caring for others.

It is one of the three basic psychological needs identified in self-determination theory, alongside autonomy and competence. The fulfillment of relatedness has a profound influence on human motivation and well-being.

Deci and Ryan posit that there are three fundamental elements of the theory:

  • Humans are inherently proactive with their potential and mastery of their inner forces (such as drives and emotions)
  • Humans have an inherent tendency toward growth development and integrated functioning
  • Optimal development and actions are inherent in humans but they do not happen automatically

During a study on the relationship between infants’ attachment styles, their exhibition of mastery-oriented behaviour, and their affect during play, Frodi, Bridges and Grolnick failed to find significant effects.

“Perhaps somewhat surprising was the finding that the quality of attachment assessed at 12 months failed to significantly predict either mastery motivation, competence, or affect 8 months later, when other investigators have demonstrated an association between similar constructs …”

They do point out that larger sample sizes may be able to detect such effects:

“A comparison of the secure/stable and the insecure/stable groups, however, did suggest that the secure/stable group was superior to the insecure/stable groups on all mastery-related measures. Obviously, replications of all the attachment-motivation relations are needed with different and larger samples.”

An additional study concentrating on adolescent relatedness found a link to other people’s predisposition behaviors from relatedness satisfaction or frustration. Relatedness satisfaction or unhappiness either supports necessary psychological functioning or inhibits developmental progress through deprivation.

The necessary requirement for nurturing from a social context goes beyond evident and basic interactions for adolescents in both research scenarios and encourages the actualization of inherent potential.

The tenets of self-determination emphasize humans’ intrinsic tendency toward positive motivation, progress, and personal fulfillment. However, if basic requirements are not met, the SDT’s goal is defeated. Although an individual’s essential requirements may be thwarted, current research suggests that such prevention has its own impact on well-being.

Connection and Attachment

The concept of relatedness is closely tied to connection and attachment in psychological literature. Connection emphasizes the establishment of supportive and caring relationships with others, while attachment highlights the development of emotional bonds between people, particularly in early childhood experiences such as parent-child relationships.

These aspects of relatedness help to foster interdependence among individuals, signifying a balanced give-and-take in relationships and promoting reciprocal empathy and understanding.

Social support plays a crucial role in satisfying the need for relatedness. People who receive encouragement, advice, and empathy from friends, family, or mentors may experience greater levels of self-determined motivation.

Furthermore, positive feedback from others helps validate one’s experiences and achievements, fostering a sense of mutual appreciation and reinforcing one’s drive to engage in meaningful activities.

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