The difference of self and the capacity to tolerate interpersonal difference and societal expectations: An exploratory study

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Murray Bowen developed one of the most influential and long-standing family systems therapies: Multigenerational Family Therapy. His central theoretical construct is the ‘differentiation of self’. Differentiation is the capacity to establish and maintain a solid sense of self in the context of relationship pressures and emotional demands. While Bowen's theory has enjoyed popularity, it is only in more recent years that his central construct has been tested via the development of new inventories. Skowron and Friedlander based their Differentiation of Self Inventory on four factors; I-Position, Emotional Reactivity, Emotional Cut-off and Emotional Fusion. While these factors have served to give insight into the structure of the differentiation of self, questions remain as to whether they provide a full and sufficient representation of the complexity of this construct. The following investigation extends Skowron and Friedlander's research by investigating whether other factors form a fundamental part of the differentiation of self. Two new potential constructs were suggested by the study: one, the significance of an individual's capacity to tolerate interpersonal difference and, two, the importance of societal expectations on self differentiation, especially in collectivist cultures.


School of Psychology

Document Type

Journal Article

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ERA Access