Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lawrence C. Grebstein


The purpose of the present study was to develop and evaluate a model of the late adolescent individuation process. The model developed and subsequently tested incorporated familial, environmental and behavioral variables. Specifically, the family system's level of differentiation, the degree of triangulation between the late adolescent and his or her parents, and the late adolescent's year in college were examined as predictor variables in relation to the late adolescent's degree of individuation, degree of psychological distress, and achievement of relationship intimacy. In addition, the relationships between several specific family processes (e.g., family communication and family conflicts) and the achievement of individuation were explored. Subjects consisted of two hundred and sixty-two university undergraduates who received course credit for the completion of a variety of self-report assessment instruments. The family system's level of differentiation emerged as a significant predictor of late adolescent individuation. A high degree of family communication and a low degree of family conflicts also demonstrated a relationship with individuation. More individuated late adolescents reported less psychological distress and more intimate extrafamilial attachments. Triangulation of the late adolescent into the parental relationship was not predictive of individuation but was predictive of relationship intimacy. A developmental, multigenerational perspective on the individuation process is outlined and recommendations are made for the treatment of psychological distress among late adolescents in accordance with this broad based approach.



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