Published Online: 30 JAN 2010
Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.
Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology
How to Cite
Lapsley, D. K. 2010. Separation-Individuation. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.
- Published Online: 30 JAN 2010
Separation-individuation is a fundamental organizing principle of human growth that has implications for adaptive functioning across the lifespan. In its most general sense individuation refers to a process “by which a person becomes increasingly differentiated from a past or present relational context” (Karpel, 1976, p. 66). Mature differentiation resolves the relational tension between agency and communion. Regarding communion, individuation requires maintaining a sense of attachment and connection to others—children and parents, mentors and protégés, friendship dyads, romantic partners and spouses—but without enmeshment and fusion with them. Indeed, the extent to which one experiences the self as fused with another is an indicator of how well communion is differentiated from enmeshment. Regarding agency, individuation requires a mature sense of autonomy and independence, but without isolation and alienation. Hence the goal of individuation is the capacity for autonomous selfhood in the context of ongoing relational commitments.