The Characteristics of Separation-Individuation in Turkish High School Students

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ABSTRACT

The aim of the present study was examine the characteristics of separation-individuation in Turkish high school students and to investigate the contribution of sociodemographic variables on this second individuation process of adolescence. The sample consisted of 618 adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18 in three urban and two rural high schools (338 females and 280 males). Measures used included a demographic questionnaire and the Separation-Individuation Test of Adolescence (SITA), developed by Levin, Green, and Millon (1986). Results indicated that the 16-year-old group had significantly higher mean scores on the Engulfment Anxiety, Dependency Denial, and Rejection Expectancy subscales than the 15-year-old group. Males had significantly higher scores on the Practicing-Mirroring subscale than girls. Tenth graders had significantly higher mean scores on the Practicing-Mirroring, Nurturance Seeking, Peer Enmeshment, Teacher Enmeshment, and Healthy Separation subscales but the mean scores on the Dependency Denial and Engulfment Anxiety subscales decreased. The means scores on the Practicing-Mirroring, Dependency, Denial, Separation Anxiety, Teacher Enmeshment, and Rejection Expectancy subscales were significantly different among the socioeconomic status groups. Also, rural adolescents can be distinguished from urban counterparts by their increased tendency to perceive themselves as self-centered, to experience separation anxiety, to seek close interpersonal ties with caretakers, teachers, and peers, and by an integration of needs for dependence and independence. The general pattern of results investigating the separation-individuation development of Turkish adolescents suggested that compared with individualistic Western cultures, Turkish culture stressed the importance of connection as well as separation and psychic restructuring and interpersonal relatedness changes leading to an autonomous self within relational contexts.

The significant characteristics of adolescence are experience of sexual maturity, withdrawal of and from adult benevolent protection, consciousness of self in interaction, re-evaluation of values, and experimentation. In addition, Konopka (1973) suggests that the adolescent is moving out from the family toward interdependence (not independence) in three areas: with peers, elders, and younger children. The adolescent-adult relationship is on an interacting or a rebellious level instead of a dependent level because adults often increase their attempts to control and direct adolescents, leading to a tendency for rebellion. Their relationship with younger children is not on a play level but on a beginning-to-care-for and nurture level. This process of moving away from dependency toward interdependence creates tension and emotional conflict during adolescence. The adolescent is confronted with a series of developmental tasks; one of the major tasks is achievement of emotional independence and psychological separation from parents. Adolescence has been described as the second individuation process by Blos (1967). Mahler, Pine, and Bergmann (1975) stated that the first process is completed toward the end of the third year of life with the attainment of emotional object constancy and a stable sense of self. Both periods have in common a heightened vulnerability of personality organization and an urgency for changes in psychic structure (Blos, 1967). During the second individuation phase, the adolescent has to separate from the internalized figures of the parents in order to become a member of the adult world. Blos (1967) argued that, "The disengagement from internalized objects opens the way in adolescence to the finding of external and extrafamilial love and hate objects in the outside world. The disengagement from the infantile objects is always paralleled by ego maturation. The accumulative ego alterations that parallel drive progression accrue in a structural innovation that is identified as the second individuation" (pp. …