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Separation from Parents in Late Adolescence: The Same for Boys and Girls?

Abstract

This study examined the way late adolescents separate from their parents. Emotional independence and conflictual independence toward mother and father were assessed. Emotional independence was defined as freedom from an excessive need for emotional support from the parents and conflictual independence as absence of guilt, mistrust, and anger toward parents. Students (18–22 years; N = 190) enrolled in higher education completed two scales of Hoffmann's Psychological Separation Inventory. Results indicated that girls more than boys need emotional support from their mothers (z = −3.101, p < .002). They express this need significantly more towards their mothers than towards their fathers (z = −4.194, p < .00003). The pattern of the girls' typical items demonstrated an ambivalence between reported dependence and demand for autonomy. The two types of independence (emotional and conflictual) were moderately correlated (r s = ∼.40). These findings support Gilligan's argument that connectedness plays a central role in the development of female adolescents. They speak for a multidimensional approach of the psychological separation process, which takes the type of independence and the children's and parents' gender into account.

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Geuzaine, C., Debry, M. & Liesens, V. Separation from Parents in Late Adolescence: The Same for Boys and Girls?. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 29, 79–91 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005173205791

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Keywords

  • High Education
  • Emotional Support
  • Separation Process
  • Female Adolescent
  • Late Adolescence