Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Separation-Individuation in Families

  • Dawn L. GloverEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_22

Name of the Strategy or Intervention

Separation-Individuation in Families


Margaret Mahler’s psychoanalytic theory of Separation-Individuation describes the first 3 years of development, conceptualizing the “psychological birth,” and development of the Self within the context of adaption and object relations (i.e., relationships with the child’s primary love objects, such as mother, father, or caregiver). Mahler was interested in how children develop identity, a notion of self, “one’s own body,” and other concepts (Mahler et al. 1985, p. 420). These are originally understood though the infant’s experience of the primary love object. This is an early developmental task, and if one does not master this task, they are unable to form reliable boundaries between internal and external experiences and experiences of self and other. Applied to families, Mahler’s theory implies that maladaptive family dynamics impact the developmental process of children with their caregiver(s).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California School of Professional PsychologyAlliant International UniversityLos AngelesUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Molly F. Gasbarrini
    • 1
  1. 1.California School of Professional PsychologyAlliant International UniversityLos AngelesUSA