Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Teaching and Learning (Education)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Wendy Morrison-Cavendish

Second Committee Member

Batya Elbaum

Third Committee Member

Marjorie Montague

Fourth Committee Member

Nicholas Myers


Considerable research exists on the importance of self-determination in the transition of students with disabilities from high school. Much of this research has focused on conditions in the family that may nurture and support the development of self-determined motivation. These conditions, as described by Self -Determination Theory, include support for autonomy, relatedness and competence. Little data exists, however, on whether the conditions in the family environment associated with self-determination vary depending on students' ethnic backgrounds. Participants consisted of 138 Latino and Anglo students with disabilities enrolled in six high schools within a large urban school district. Self-determination was measured using the Arc Self-Determination Scale (Wehmeyer & Kelchner). Students' perceptions of their family environment were measured using six subscales from the Family Environment Scale (Moos & Moos). Latino students scored significantly higher than Anglo students in level of self-determination, but no significant differences were found in perceptions of the family environment between the two groups. Self-determination was regressed on the family environment subscales and no significant effect sizes were obtained for the sample as a whole (R2 = .044, F (6, 129) = .993, p = .433). However, comparisons between Latinos and Anglos on the relationship between perceptions of the family environment and self-determination suggested that family environments associated with Autonomy were more related to levels of self-determination in Anglo than in Latino students. Family environments associated with Cohesiveness, Achievement Orientation and Control were more highly related to level of self-determination for Latino than for Anglo students. The study has practical implications for parents and school practitioners when planning for transition and implementing strategies to develop self-determination for students with disabilities.


Transition; Disabilities; Self-determination; Special Education; Family Environment; Ethnicity