Differentiation of self and its relation to work stress and work satisfaction

Authors

  • Alan A. Cavaiola PhD,

    1. Monmouth University
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    • Alan A. Cavaiola, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Psychological Counseling at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey. He is involved in employee assistance consultation and research involving the impact of personality disorders in the work settings. He is coauthor of Toxic Coworkers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job. He can be reached at cavaiol@monmouth.edu.

  • Callandra Peters BA,

    1. Monmouth University
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    • Callandra Peters is a graduate student in the Department of Psychological Counseling at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey, and is working toward her MS degree in mental health counseling. She can be reached at cpeters33@gmail.com.

  • Nadya Hamdan BA,

    1. Monmouth University
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    • Nadya Hamden is a graduate student in the Department of Psychological Counseling at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey, and is working toward her MS degree in mental health counseling. She can be reached at s0539420@monmouth.edu.

  • Neil J. Lavender PhD

    1. Ocean County College
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    • Neil J. Lavender, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Social Sciences at Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey. He is involved in research investigating the impact of personality disorders in work settings and is coauthor of Toxic Coworkers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job. He can be reached at nlavender@occ.edu.


Abstract

This study examines the relation of differentiation of self in the workplace to work stress and work satisfaction among individuals working in various employment settings. Family theorist Murray Bowen (1976, 1978) defined differentiation as encompassing one's ability to attain a mature balance between autonomy and intimacy within relationships. The purpose of this study was to determine whether better levels of differentiation would translate into better workplace relationships that would reflect in greater job satisfaction and lower perceived stress levels. The Emotional Reactivity, Emotional Cutoff, and Fusion subscales of the Differentiation of Self Inventory (Skowron & Friedlander, 1998) and the Workplace Differentiation Inventory developed by the authors assessed differentiation of self in the workplace. As hypothesized, participants who scored as more highly differentiated on both scales reported greater overall job satisfaction and lower interpersonal stress. Researchers found significant positive correlations between the subscales of the Differentiation of Self Inventory and the Workplace Differentiation Inventory, which suggests that workers tend to respond to interpersonal workplace situations in similar ways as their responses to other relationships. Researchers found significant gender differences, with women reporting more Emotional Reactivity and Fusion than men do. The authors use Bowen's theory of differentiation in discussing these results.

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