On the thin line between connection and separation: The individuation process, from cognitive and object-relations perspectives, in kibbutz adolescents

Aviva Mazor*, Adi Alfa, Yolanda Gampel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study explores the individuation process among kibbutz children and adolescents. Individuation is defined as developmental process of separation of the self from one's family. The process encompasses intrapsychic and interpersonal changes leading to an autonomous self within relational contexts. The major objective of the study is to examine the relationship between the socialcognitive perspective and the object relation school of psychoanalytic theory of the individuation process, in a communal life. Mazor's individuation interview of 1985, Levine et al.'s Separation-Individuation Test of Adolescence (SITA) of 1986, Urist's The Mutuality of Autonomy Scale of 1977, and Coonerty's The Separation-Individuation Theme Scale of 1986 were administered to four age groups (N=60): late childhood (9-10 years), early adolescence (13-14 years), midadolescence (16-17), and late adolescence (20-22 years). From the social-cognitive perspective, four individuation levels were defined as age increased. Results confirmed that older subjects construe self and self-other relationships on a higher level of the individuation sequence than younger ones. From the psychoanalytic perspective, results partly confirmed the hypothesis that adolescents exhibit the second individuation process. Accordingly on the SITA a significant increase of engulfment-anxiety was higher in early adolescence and subsequent age groups than in late childhood. Findings on the two Rorschach's scales point to a common pattern: In late childhood there is a lower level of differentiation between self and object representation and the themes are more primitive than in older age groups. At early adolescence there is a significant constriction of psychic expression through defensive as well as shallow responses. In middle adolescence, psychic expression becomes richer revealing differentiation of the self and ambivalence between merging and separatedness in object relations. These features also characterize the late adolescence group. Findings indicate that the social-cognitive aspect of the individuation process proceeds faster than the intrapsychic and unconscious aspects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)641-669
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1993


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