Differentiation of self and emerging adulthood

Sharon Hollander, Florida International University


Today's young people are progressing from adolescence into adulthood differently than past generations, including taking a longer time to make this transition. Some believe that the developmental markers and tasks of this transitional period are unique enough to merit the designation of a new life stage--"emerging adulthood." Recently, this new life stage of emerging adulthood has received increasing attention in the developmental literature, including attention to the probable causes for its evolution. However, little is known about specific aspects of intra- and interpersonal development that occur during emerging adulthood. The purpose of this study was to empirically assess hypothesized relations between variables associated with the psychological constructs of attachment, psychosocial maturity, and differentiation of self, in a sample of emerging adults. Structural equation modeling (SEM) analyses indicated an association between the variables measuring these constructs (anxiety, avoidance, I-position, reactivity, cutoff, fusion, identity, and intimacy). The results from structural equation modeling (SEM) analyses helped to confirmed and extended previous research by demonstrating significant associations between attachment, psychosocial maturity, and differentiation of self through the variables operationalizing these constructs. Psychosocial maturity predicted differentiation of self (with intimacy predicting emotional cutoff and identity predicting cutoff and I-position). Attachment also predicted differentiation of self (with anxiety predicting all differentiation variables, and avoidance predicting emotional reactivity and cutoff). However, associations between anxiety and cutoff and between avoidance and cutoff were mediated by psychosocial identity and intimacy, and associations between anxiety and I-position were mediated by identity. Thus, these results corroborate and elaborate previous research conducted on these constructs. Specifically, relational tendencies thought to be influenced by attachment security impact interpersonal functioning in emerging adulthood, but this association is influenced by the degree of resolution of key psychosocial tasks.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Hollander, Sharon, "Differentiation of self and emerging adulthood" (2007). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3279227.