Individuation and Differentiation in Families Across Cultures

Authored by: Camillo Regalia , Claudia Manzi , Eugenia Scabini

Handbook of Family Theories

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415879453
eBook ISBN: 9780203075180
Adobe ISBN: 9781135118754


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Know thyself. These two words of the Oracle at Delphi summarize the main task of identity development. Scholars interested in identity development have focused on the intrapsychic process, whereby young people begin to explore (or discover) who they might become. Through this individuation process, which begins in infancy and culminates in adulthood, an individual develops a unique and autonomous self-concept distinct from others. However, the individuation process does not take place in a social vacuum; family context has a great influence on, and is very much involved in, the process of defining one's identity. Accordingly, family scholars have focused attention on the differentiation process, a family process that regulates distance between family members and affects the development of individual identity (Sabatelli & Mazor, 1985).

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