Differentiation of self and child abuse potential in young adulthood

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The authors examine the role of Bowen family systems theory in predicting physical child abuse potential. Relations between differentiation of self, perceptions of personal problem-solving skills, and child abuse potential were tested in a sample of 210 single young adults who were not yet parents. Greater differentiation of self that is, lower reactivity, emotional cutoff, or fusion with others, and better ability to take "I" positions in relationships along with better problem-solving skills, predicted lower physical child abuse potential. Those undecided with respect to college major reported lowest levels of differentiation and highest child abuse potential. Implications for counseling, limitations, and directions for further research are discussed.