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Volume 5, Pages 478-489
Research Article

Adolescent Aggression and Differentiation of Self: Guided Mindfulness Meditation in the Service of Individuation

Department of Social Work, Faculty of Social Sciences, College of Judea and Samaria, Ariel, Israel

Copyright © 2005 Liora¬†Birnbaum.


This paper presents adolescent aggression as mediated by the level of differentiation of self. No research has directly addressed Bowen's notion that level of differentiation impacts child functioning including aggression. Level of differentiation is discussed in conjunction with social, gender and cultural norms as manifested in aggressive behavior. Female adolescent aggression is described as mainly relationship focused and expressed via verbal threats, intimidation and manipulation, while male aggression is described mainly as overt physical violence involving dominance and competitiveness. Research on differentiation focuses mainly on Western cultures that tend to be individualistic. Jewish-Israeli society is in transition from collectivistic to individualistic cultural values in the midst of ongoing hostilities. These processes create conflict regarding togetherness and individuality needs among adolescents, who are exposed to contradictory messages regarding separating and staying close. External as well as internal expressions of aggression (depression, suicide) are presented as coping strategies in the service of a wounded self-negotiating with the world. Guided mindfulness meditation is a powerful technique for facilitating healing and growth toward autonomy by helping adolescents connect to their inner voice. This technique may be especially useful in the adolescent search for self-awareness, meaning and life purpose. Bodily, cognitive and emotional experiences are treated as informative regarding the “self” and facilitate expansion of self-perception and individuality.