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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