The relationship between perceived parental attachment, ego development and individuation in a non-clinical adolescent population

Karen L Tieman, Pace University


The present investigation examined the relationship between adolescents' attachment to their parents, ego development, individuation, and depressive and counter depressive symptomatology. It was hypothesized that positive attachment would correspond to greater progress toward individuation, less depressive and counterdepressive defenses, and that there would be a curvilinear relationship between attachment and ego development. Dimensions of attachment measured by the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment included those of parental trust, communication, and alienation. Individuation, as well as three types of depression and three types of behavior related to counterdepressive styles, were measured by the Pace Profile of Adolescent Depression and Individuation. Ego development was measured by Jane Loevinger's Washington University Sentence Completion Test. The sample was comprised of 263 adolescents, 118 males and 145 females, attending a Northern Westchester high school, ranging in age from 14 to 18 years old. Contrast analyses and correlational analyses demonstrated that there were no significant findings for hypotheses predicting a significant relationship between perceived attachment to mother or father and ego development stage. Follow up exploratory analyses examining gender interaction effects also yielded largely insignificant results, but for a significant relationship between ego development and alienation from the mother. For male adolescents, a significant relationship between ego development and attachment to the mother was found. Correlational analyses demonstrated that there was a significant and positive relationship between attachment to parents and individuation (defined as PADI scales III and IV). High scores on the three scales of the PADI measuring types of depression (defined as PADI scales I, II, and VIII) and three scales measuring counterdepressive defenses (defined as PADI scales V, VI, and VII) to the individuation process were negatively related to attachment to mother and father for both the males and females. Multiple regression demonstrated that higher attachment to both parents combined to predict a statistically significant degree of the variance in individuation and that attachment to the mother was more highly predictive of successful individuation than attachment to father. Among the dimensions of attachment, trust was more predictive of individuation than were communication or alienation. Results of this study should prove useful to psychologists, teachers, and others concerned with adolescents for whom failure of individuation and concomitant depressive anxieties and defenses against them impact their self-esteem and often their ability to cope effectively with stage specific demands.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Tieman, Karen L, "The relationship between perceived parental attachment, ego development and individuation in a non-clinical adolescent population" (2004). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3138870.



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