How do I look? Parent-adolescent psychological boundary dissolution and adolescents' true-self behavior as manifested in their self-drawings

Limor Goldner, Ayelet Abir, Shira Caren Sachar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The construction of the self is a central process in adolescents' life, and an adequate parent-adolescent relationship is an important factor in promoting this development. In order to better understand this development of self within the family context this study examined the ways in which parent-adolescent boundary dissolution, adolescent true-self behavior and motives for false-self behavior are manifested in adolescents' self-representations. Differences in adolescents' self-figure drawings as a function of their true-self behavior, motives for false-self behavior, and their experience of various types of boundary dissolution with their parents in a sample of Israeli early to mid-adolescents (N = 333, Mean age = 14.00, SD = .69) were examined. Drawings were coded using the DAP-SPED coding system as well as a more global approach. The findings indicated positive correlations between psychological control with mother and father, triangulation with the father and the number of deviant indicators in self-drawings. Adolescents who drew detached and bizarre self-drawings showed higher levels of motives for false-self behavior with parents. Adolescents who drew bizarre self-drawings experienced higher levels of triangulation and psychological control with mothers and higher levels of triangulation with fathers. The implications for theory and clinical interventions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-40
Number of pages10
JournalArts in Psychotherapy
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Three hundred and thirty-three ( = 333) early (34%) and middle adolescents (66%) took part. The sample was composed of 8th and 9th graders from three middle schools in the central part of Israel. Of the participants, 53% were girls and 47% were boys. The mean age of the adolescents was 14.00 (range 12.50–15.50; SD = .69). Of the participants, 83% came from two-parent families and 17% were from divorced families; 95% of the participants were born in Israel, and the others were immigrants (mostly from the Former Soviet Union). All participants spoke Hebrew. Of the participants, 287 (86%) adolescents reported on their mothers’ level of education and 282 (85%) reported on their fathers. Data indicated that 8% of the mothers and 7% of the fathers had a Ph.D. degree, 31% of the mothers and 25% of the fathers had an M.A. degree, 26% of the mothers and 25% of the fathers had a B.A. degree, 14% of the mothers and 18% of the fathers finished technical school, while the remainder had a high school education. N After receiving ethical approval from both the Ministry of Education and from the Committee to Evaluate Human Subject Research at the Faculty of Health Sciences and Social Welfare of the University of Haifa (#(938 consent letters were sent to parents and adolescents. A questionnaire booklet was administered in the school setting during a 45 min session. The second and the third authors introduced the project, read a few sample items out loud, and demonstrated how to fill in the questionnaires. All measures were independently translated into Hebrew from the English original by three translators who are experts in the field of developmental psychology and are native speakers of Hebrew. Then, their translations were compared, disagreements were discussed, and a final version was constructed. Participants were asked to draw a self-figure using a pencil and eraser on an A4 format. No further instructions were given. Participants were assured of the confidentiality of their responses. Two to nine adolescents did not report on the different study subscales. The missing values were not compensated for statistically in the SPSS analyses exploring the first two analyses.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Adolescents
  • Boundary dissolution
  • Self-figure drawings
  • True self

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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