This paper analyses the relationship between the complexity of role experiences and personal differentiation. "Complex role experiences" are defined by high levels of voluntarism, multiplexity, quasi-responsibility and trial-and-error behaviour. The ability to differentiate between diverse principles of role enactment and various criteria of interpersonal relations is conceptualized as "personal differentiation". Our hypothesis is that a pre-designed educational programme providing complex role experiences enhances personal differentiation This hypothesis was tested in an experimental study on Israeli adolescents participating in summer camps. The results show that the active exposure to and assumption of variegated roles in different settings on a voluntaristic basis, while performing meaningful and quasi-responsible actions by means of trial-and-error behaviour, enhances role and interpersonal differentiation, and hence personal differentiation, among adolescents.
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We wish to express our appreciation to Reuven Kahane, our teacher and mentor, and to our friends and colleagues, Eyal Ben-Ari, Chaim Adler, Yehezkel Dar and Batia Siebzehner for their insightful comments. We are grateful for the support extended by the National Council of Jewish Women Research Institute for Innovation in Education, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and we thank Barry Meislin for his editorial assistance.