When discussing human development, individuation refers to the process of forming a stable personality.1 As a person individuates, they gain a clearer sense of self that is separate from their parents and others around them. Carl Jung used the term “individuation” extensively in his work on personality development.2
What is individuation?
This process of developing a separate identity is an important goal of adolescence, but it is something that continues throughout a person’s life.
In Carl Jung’s work, he suggested that this was a self-realization process. Throughout life, people are prone to losing touch with certain aspects of their true selves. Through individuation, they are able to integrate these aspects of themselves with all of their new learning and experiences that they gain throughout life.3
Signs of Individuation
Individuation occurs throughout life, but it is an important part of the tween, teen, and young adulthood years. When individuation occurs:
- People may seek privacy: During adolescence, tweens and teens may want more privacy.4 During this time, parents or caregivers should get used to the idea of their children wanting to spend time alone in their bedrooms. They may no longer be as open about what happens during the school day or in their friendships. They also may have romantic relationships or crushes that they keep to themselves.
- They may focus on themselves more than others: Adolescent egocentrism may arise due to the individuation process. Teenagers are often focused on their own concerns and may struggle to see things from the perspective of others.4
- People may rebel against the family or cultural norms: Young people undergoing the individuation process may also seemingly rebel against their parents.5 If their parents are conservative Christians, for example, the child may begin to develop an interest in Buddhism or announce their interest in atheism. The child may reject conservatism to embrace liberal politics.
- They may personalize their appearance: Children during this time may dress, style their hair, or listen to music to which their parents object. Parents should not take these style decisions personally.