Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford


  • Aleksandra PilarskaEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2409-1



Differentiation refers to a process of change in a system toward greater complexity or the result of such a process (i.e., the complexity of a system’s structure); in a somewhat narrower sense, differentiation is concerned with the number of specialized elements in a complex system.


The concept of differentiation has long been central to several psychological theories. Witkin et al. (1962) discuss the notion of psychological differentiation, viewed as an organism-wide process of development toward greater psychological complexity. At the core of Bowen’s (1978) family system theory and therapy is the concept of differentiation of self, considered as a key aspect in the process of emotional development and maturing. Child psychology and psychoanalysis use the term differentiation interchangeably with the term individuation to denote a process through which a child develops a self (e.g., Mahler et al. 1975). In all...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyAdam Mickiewicz University in PoznańPoznańPoland

Section editors and affiliations

  • Carey Fitzgerald
    • 1
  1. 1.University of South Carolina – BeaufortBlufftonUSA