Individuation, differentiation, and psychological adjustment in Orthodox Jewish college students

Shoshana Karasick, Fordham University


The emphasis in the theoretical and empirical literature on separation-individuation in late adolescence as a prerequisite for healthy psychological development has been criticized for neglecting to incorporate themes of familialism and interconnectedness that are fundamental to many minority cultures. This study examined the relative importance of separation constructs in a cultural context. Specifically, the impact of interpersonal individuation, intrapsychic individuation, and family level differentiation on the college adjustment and subjective well-being of Orthodox Jewish college students was explored. Orthodox Jews are a distinct population in which to study these variables since they retain many collectivist values and maintain a strong family and community focus. Self-report questionnaires were administered to 121 Orthodox Jewish college students. Interpersonal individuation was assessed with Psychological Separation Inventory (PSI). Intrapsychic individuation, the ability to differentiate between emotional and intellectual functioning, was assessed with the Chabot Emotional Differentiation Scale (CED), and family differentiation was assessed with the Differentiation in the Family Systems Questionnaire (DIFS). Results indicated that the PSI assessed two dimensions that differentially impacted the subjects. The first dimension of a general independence from parents was negatively related to and predictive of the subjective well-being of the subjects; i.e., greater generalized dependence on parents predicted greater levels of subjective well-being. The second dimension of the PSI, conflictual independence from parents was positively correlated with the outcome variables. Intrapsychic individuation was positively correlated with, and predictive of, both the subjective well being and college adjustment of the students. Family differentiation was positively correlated with, but did not predict, the subjective well being and college adjustment of the students. These results demonstrate that cultural norms impact the components of healthy psychological development. In a culture like Orthodox Judaism that values interrelatedness, it is a generalized dependence on parents, rather than independence from them, that predicted subjective well being. It therefore may be inappropriate to utilize the PSI as an assessment measure in minority populations such as this one. Intrapsychic individuation, as assessed by the CED, was a strong predictor of the outcome variables in this study and demonstrated good cross-cultural utility.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Karasick, Shoshana, "Individuation, differentiation, and psychological adjustment in Orthodox Jewish college students" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3140899.