Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Perceptions of Family Differentiation, Individuation, and Self-Esteem among Korean Adolescents

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Perceptions of Family Differentiation, Individuation, and Self-Esteem among Korean Adolescents

Article excerpt

The relationships between family differentiation and adolescent individuation and between adolescent individuation and self-esteem were tested with 170 adolescents in Korea. To measure family differentiation, three dyadic interaction patterns were examined (i.e., parents' marital, fatheradolescent, and mother-adolescent). Results revealed significant relationships between adolescent individuation and differentiation in adolescent and same-sex parent pairs. For male adolescents, father-adolescent differentiation was the strongest predictor of individuation, and for female adolescents, mother-adolescent differentiation was most strongly related to individuation. Also, for both male and female adolescents, individuation was negatively associated with selfesteem, a finding that is not consistent with research in the U.S.

Key Words: adolescents, differentiation, gender, individuation, Korea, self-esteem.

SHELLEY M. MACDERMID Purdue University*

Adolescence is a period when individuals are greatly concerned about self. Adolescents struggle to individuate themselves from their families of origin and expand their network of intimate relationships with the outside world. From the point of view of family development, the task of the family during adolescence is to provide an environment that facilitates the individuation process of the adolescent, which, in turn, is positively related to individual psychological adjustment.

"Individuation" has been defined as the intrapsychic process by which one comes to see oneself as separate and distinct within one's relational context (Anderson & Sabatelli, 1990). It has most often been explored in the context of family systems theories and theories of individual personality development (Bray & Harvey, 1987). Research based on family systems theories has contended that adolescent individuation is influenced primarily by family patterns of interaction, particularly between parents and children. The influence of parents' behaviors on adolescents, however, has been given disproportionate emphasis (Bartle, Anderson, & Sabatelli, 1989; Demo, Small, & Savin-Willams, 1987; Gecas & Seff, 1991; Robertson & Simons, 1989), relative to the influence of adolescents on parents. The influence of other family relationships (e.g., the impact of the marital relationship on parent-adolescent relationships) also has been underemphasized (Anderson & Sabatelli, 1992).

Personality developmentalists, meanwhile, have argued that adolescent individuation is closely related to aspects of psychological wellbeing such as self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. For example, Flemming and Anderson (1986) found that adolescents' perceptions of fusion with their parents were related to lower selfesteem and mastery and poorer health and college adjustment. They argued that much of human dysfunction occurs due to lack of individuation from and unresolved emotional attachment to the family of origin. Most studies done in the United States have supported this view. A significant positive relationship between parent-adolescent separation and adolescent psychosocial wellbeing has been found in several studies (Hoffman, 1983; Moore, 1987; Rice, Cole, & Lapsley, 1990). Some scholars question, however, the notion that individuation and emotional autonomy have uniformly positive implications for adjustment. They point out that emotional autonomy may be positively related to adjustment only in less supportive family environments (Fuhrman & Holmbeck, 1995).

In this study, we examine the relationships among individuation, self-esteem, and motheradolescent, father-adolescent, and mother-father differentiation. We operationalize differentiation bi-directionally-both in terms of adolescents' perceptions of their behavior toward their parents and their parents' behavior toward them. Finally, we do this using a sample of male and female adolescents from Korea, where the cultural emphasis on collectivism is stronger than it is in the dominant culture in the U. …

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