Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

Relationship between Differentiation of Self and Marital Adjustment in Indian Couples

Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

Relationship between Differentiation of Self and Marital Adjustment in Indian Couples

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Family is the first and foremost important unit of the ecosystem that influences an individual's understanding of relationships and their roles in life. Murray Bowen (1978) conceptualised family theory, in which he viewed family as a dynamic and emotionally interactive unit. According to the theory, family's pattern of relating can affect a person's adjustment in adulthood to important relationships including marriage. People often attempt to recreate similar rules and boundaries in a marital relationship that they have learnt in their own family. One of the most important concept in Bowen's family theory is Differentiation of Self that has a crucial role in interpersonal domain of an adult. Differentiation of Self has been defined as a process of dynamic interplay between autonomy and separation while progressing towards developing goals (Bowen, 1976). It distinguishes intellectual and emotional systems and also, interpersonal capacity to maintain autonomy while establishing deep intimacy with important others (Bowen, 1976, 1978). The differentiation of self tends to remain the same and is transferred through generations unless efforts are made to change it. Higher level of self-differentiation enables development of an autonomous self in emotionally committed relationships. As a result, a "solid self" is formed that helps individual to understand the dynamics of a relationship and accept its limitations (Metcalf, 2011). In contrast, "pseudo self", also known as "fused self" forms inconsistent beliefs and principles under emotional pressure. People with pseudo self blames others for their problems.

In 1998, Skoworn and Friedlander explained four factors of differentiation of self; two interpersonal factors (Fusion with others and Emotional Cutoff) and two intrapsychic factors (Emotional Reactivity and I-Position). 1. Fusion with others (FO)- It has been defined as blurring of boundaries between individuals or family members, leading to greater role constraint, over involvement of significant others in decisions and difficulty in making opinions or perspectives independent of one's parents or significant others. 2. Emotional Cutoff (EC)- It is described as totally cutting off or reduction in emotional contact with significant others to manage unresolved emotional issues. 3. Emotional Reactivity (ER)- ER is described as an emotionally driven reaction, usually in the form of anxiety. Poorly differentiated individuals consume their energy toward experience, expression and intensity of their feelings. Conversely, highly differentiated individuals experience strong emotions and they are able to consider alternative ways of thinking or being. 4. I- position (IP)- IP is a position that reflects the degree to which one has a vivid sense of self and ability to stand up for one's convictions even when getting criticized or rejected by significant others.

Bowen postulated that differentiation of self is universal in nature and can affect the most intimate relationship i.e. marital relationship as high intensity of emotions are involved in this relationship. Several studies assessed cross cultural validity of Bowen's theory of differentiation of self and marital relationships. Chung and Gale (2006) compared differentiation of self between Korean students (collectivist culture) and European American students (Individualistic culture) affecting family functioning. The results suggested that U.S students perceived higher levels of family functioning as compared to their Korean Counterparts. In another study, Tamura and Lau (1992) found that Japanese participants (collectivist culture) promotes fusion with others than separateness as a process, whereas, their British participants, individualistic culture emphasizes low levels of fusion with others for better psychological functioning.

In urban areas of India, understanding of marriage has been rapidly changing with globalization. Still at large, it is a collectivist culture where interdependence and conformity have always been appreciated and promoted. …

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