Identity formation in adolescence and young adulthood
Theo A. Klimstra, Lotte van Doeselaar, in Personality Development Across the Lifespan, 2017
Identity formation processes are not only associated with psychosocial functioning but also impact what is arguably the most important objective indicator of adolescent successful functioning: academic success. A meta-analysis (Robbins et al., 2004) and several subsequent studies (Germeijs & Verschueren, 2007; Klimstra, Luyckx, Germeijs, Meeus, & Goossens, 2012) showed that individuals with higher levels of educational commitment are more likely to move through college without study delays. In fact, educational commitment even buffered the adverse effects that living in a disadvantaged neighborhood had on educational attainment (Nieuwenhuis, Hooimeijer, & Meeus, 2015). Collectively, these studies show the importance of identity formation in the early stages of career development.
M.S. Merry, in International Encyclopedia of Education (Third Edition), 2010
Identity formation has been studied from a number of perspectives. For example, there are models of racial identity formation (Cross, 1971), sexual identity formation (Cass, 1979), and minority identity formation (Atkinson et al., 1983). Whatever the case, identity formation describes the conscious process of (re)examining one's feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and ways of relating to others who may or may not share similar commitments and habits. It is to reflect upon “our place in the universe, the meaning of life and death, and our purpose for being here” (Chickering and Reisser, 1993: 207). Identity formation also describes the way in which individuals deal with uncertainty and ambiguity.
Notwithstanding a variety of disciplinary approaches, contemporary studies on identity formation continue to assume a psychological cast, and none has towered over the field like Erik Erikson. Identity formation, for Erikson, names a process at the core of the individual and at the core of her communal culture, a process which establishes a single identity that links them together. “Identity grows and is nurtured or frustrated in a complex bonding of self and society” (Hoover et al., 1997: 21). The formation of identity involves both competence and integrity. Competence is achieved by one's efforts and is validated by the recognition of others, while integrity is a state of mind about who one is in relation to oneself and others.
Identity for Erikson is both a personal and social construction, for there is a strong interplay between the psychic self and the social self. It is personal inasmuch as identity is developed through the integration of various identifications with significant others and reference groups, and it is social inasmuch as it is developed through the internalized roles and appraisals of others. Central components of identity include: (1) a sense of personal continuity over time and across situations; (2) a sense of inner agency; (3) a commitment to certain self-representations as self-defining; (4) a commitment to certain roles as self-defining; (5) an acknowledgment of one's role commitments and views of self by significant others; (6) a commitment to a set of core values and ideal self-standards, and (7) a commitment to a worldview that gives life meaning (Erikson, 1959, 1968).
For Erikson, identity begins long before there is self-awareness, for it is in the nascent bonds of intimate relations (primarily with one's parents) that identity assumes its earliest expression. Intimate relationships, particularly the maternal bond with children, supply the mutual trust and recognition necessary for security and trust. Over time, and with consistent care and attention, it is within these trusting bonds that one comes to identify in a particular way with a set of attachments, habits, and thought patterns. This also describes the manner in which persons are enculturated, which is to say that most persons gradually come to identify with a way-of-being as natural, self-evident, and correct. The foundations of trust give rise to greater possibilities for personal well-being; well-being in this sense describes the experience of being accepted by others as well as a sense of security, satisfaction, and confidence about one's being-in-the-world. A healthy self-concept describes those who are comfortable with their self-image, with how others see them, with the roles they have chosen for themselves, or even which others have chosen for them. (Erikson's notions also supply the foundations for many sociological and anthropological understandings of what makes groups of individuals cohere.)
Yet an absence, or shattering, of foundational trust, for Erikson, portends a looming identity crisis. This crisis (which in late adolescence he describes as identity diffusion) frequently results from persistent doubts about one's ethnic, gender, religious, sexual, or racial identity, and describes the inability to resolve a profound personal challenge when faced with it. On the other hand, another type of crisis known as moratorium, is one that persons must navigate in order to achieve identity at each stage of development. Either way, identity crises arise when the acceptance of one's identity is questioned or rejected by oneself or others. Young persons are particularly susceptible to peer pressure; anxious to be accepted as a group member, intolerance may be expressed towards non-members, that is, outsiders. In Erikson's words:
It is difficult to be tolerant if deep down you are not quite sure that you are a man (or a woman), that you will ever [be] attractive, that you will be able to master your drives, that you really know who you are, that you know what you want to be, that you know what you look like to others, and that you will know how to make the right decisions without, once for all, committing yourself to the wrong friend, sexual partner, leader, or career (Erikson, 1959: 93).
If the crisis proves too difficult to overcome, some kind of identity pathology may set in (e.g., narcissistic personality disorder), these normally being the “result of impaired ego functioning caused by a functional or organic disorder” (Côté and Levine, 2002: 154). The result, for psychoanalysts, is that a failure to thrive at any level represents a failure to successfully navigate a much earlier conflict (e.g., trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. doubt) so that a personality disorder is the result of a more primary problem with attachment that is manifested in that period when intimacy is the primary demand for growth, that is, adolescence and early adulthood.
Marcia (1966) extended the work of Erikson by examining the various ways in which identity formation occurred in adolescence. Marcia, however, was less certain that identities were either resolved or confused. The crisis that Erikson described was not, for Marcia, an emergency but rather a stimulus for overcoming challenges and therefore leading to growth. The result would be greater individualization and differentiation. Marcia also concurred with most psychologists on this point: identity arises from any number of competing – and not necessarily conflicting – influences. Though not an exhaustive list of identity-forming effects, birth order, peer group, gender assignment, sexual orientation, religion, occupation, and culture all influence, to one degree or another, how one comes to understand her relationship to others, including the way in which one shares a set of communally based commitments or practices.
Needless to say, identities will not arise within, or map onto, neatly prescribed categories. Côté and Levine (2002: 46) observe:
[In] order to understand an individual's personal identity, one needs to know more about a person than his or her ego constructions and sociohistoric location and opportunities – one needs to know about the emergent interpersonal circumstances affecting his or her behavior, including others' perceptions of past personal-identity displays, labels that might have been affixed to him or her by others, prejudices faced, gossip relevant to the person, multiple and contradictory pressures to conform, and so forth.
Perhaps one truism seldom noted by psychological identity theorists is that many identities also are formed in resistance to peer or parental expectations, as well as to one's inherited group identity or membership. Further, preferring an interdependent and relational model of identity formation, some feminist critics (Gilligan, 1982) of Erikson – and moral development theorist Lawrence Kohlberg – have objected to their purported androcentric preference for autonomy and independence as signs of identity achievement.
Friendship During Adolescence and Cultural Variations
Hildegunn Fandrem, in International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (Second Edition), 2015
The Role of Culture in Formation of Identity in Adolescence
All over the world identity formation may be defined as a lifelong process characterized by cycles of exploration and consolidation, as well as experiences of competence and vulnerability (Grotevant and Cooper, 1998). Although the process is lifelong, it takes new dimensions during years of youth because of the confluence of physical, cognitive, and relational changes during this period. Thus, there are reasons to believe that adolescence, especially early adolescence, may be a turbulent period (Chen and Ferruggia, 2002). However, the time of adolescence is not necessarily a period of ‘storm and stress,’ as claimed by Western developmental and clinical psychologists throughout most of the twentieth century (Hall, 1904). Berry et al. (2002) claims that the time of adolescence is most of all a time for learning new social roles, with attendant psychological tensions. However, deciding who one wants to be may not necessarily be an easy task, and difficulties in identity development have been associated with serious problematic behavior, as e.g., substance abuse (Jones et al., 1989). Generally, adolescence may be said to be the most difficult time of life. This claim is supported by research, which generally finds depression to be rare among children (Kessler et al., 2001) while among adolescents depressive mood is found to be higher than among their parents (Kandel and Davies, 1982).
Descriptively, a range of aspects is traditionally held to concern identity, independent of where one is from. Dimensions like nationality, ethnicity, gender, social memberships and group characteristics, individual character, personality, and social preferences are all part of the identity (Verkuyten, 2005). Hence, identity consists of both collectivistic (e.g., ethnic) and personal (e.g., individual characteristics) dimensions. Ethnic identity may be said to refer to the idea of common origin (Kanstad, 1994) as it comprises identification with one's ethnic group or culture of origin. This dimension is, furthermore, an example of a stable dimension. The national identity, on the other hand, refers to the country or nation, in which one lives. Hence, it comprises identification with the larger society surrounding the person and thus it changes with resettlements. The concept of cultural identity covers both the ethnic and national dimensions. Triandis et al. (1990) define culture as those constructs shared by speakers of a particular dialect, living in a proximal location, during the same historical period. Thus, culture may not necessarily refer to only a country. Important in this sense is, however, that cultural identity refers to more than the group category that one chooses, it involves a sense of belonging to one or more cultural groups and the feelings associated with a group membership (Phinney, 1990). If culture refers to countries it is important to have in mind, regarding adolescents that have migrated, that national and ethnic identity differ for the same individual. Furthermore, the relationship between the two dimensions needs to be in focus as it might have an influence on psychological and sociocultural adaptation, and the possibility for friendship formation for this group of adolescents. Social identity may also be said to occur when one discover that one have something in common to someone, at the same time as one discover that there are people one have little in common with. This type of collectivistic identity comprises the notion of a social group (e.g., gender, status, age). Thus it is also less stable. Friendships play an important role in the formation of especially social identity. At the end all the collectivistic dimensions of the identity (ethnic, national cultural, and social) are given a personal expression through the personal identity. The personal dimension of the identity is established on the basis of each individual's personal experiences. Thus, personal identity is never the same among different individuals. It is also claimed that because of increased global and social mobility the personal, or subjective, aspect of the identity becomes more and more important (Fandrem, 1996).
From this we may claim that identity is constructed and maintained through social interactions, it changes over time and context, and across generations. It is, however, through the time of adolescents that the formation of the identity is an especially critical developmental task (Marcia, 2002; Phinney et al., 2006). How the identity process develops is highly dependent on the peers, the family, the community, and the context to which the adolescent is exposed. As mentioned earlier, independent of culture, parents (vertical relations) are the most significant others to the individual in the earliest years of life. With increasing age, especially during years of youth, peers (horizontal relationships), however, become increasingly significant. Research have shown that during years of youth, peers become more important to the individual, and the amount of time spent with family members decreases (Laible et al., 2000; Larson et al., 1996).
Considering that cultural variation in this article also includes variations regarding individuals belonging to more than one culture, immigrant adolescents should be left a comment. In immigrant families, especially the mother is the one who represents the culture of origin. In addition to generally being more interested in keeping traditions, mothers often spend more time with people from the same origin as themselves, especially if they are not employed and thus through work gain social relationships with people from the dominant culture. Adolescents, on the other side, gain social relationships with peers from the dominant culture at school. Thus, for immigrant adolescents, parents and peers may represent more distinct values, compared to what is the case for native adolescents. Consequently, immigrant adolescents may struggle more than natives during development of their identity. For adolescents in immigrant families, formation of ethnic identity involves examining also the ethnic attitude, values, and practices learned at home from their immigrant parents and considering them in relation to those of their peers (Phinney, 1989).
Regarding the different dimensions of the identity, for adolescents with immigrant background also the concept of ethnic minority identity (Phinney, 1990) may be used, besides majority identity or host national identity, which refers to the individual's identification with the majority or host society. It has been suggested that it is possible to have high or low identification on both constructs, or a high identification on one construct, and a low one on the other (Phinney, 1990; Sanchez and Fernandez, 1993). Furthermore, a strong sense of ethnic identity devoid of positive identification with the larger society may aggravate psychological conflicts; this may in turn influence the opportunity to establish friendships for this group.
Ethnic Identity, Psychology of
J.S. Phinney, in International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2001
1.3 The Achievement and Internalization of Ethnic Identity
The optimal outcome of the ethnic identity formation process is the achievement of a secure and confident sense of one's ethnicity. This mature sense of self as an ethnic group member is assumed to include positive feelings about one's group and to be a source of personal strength and positive self-evaluation (Phinney 1989, Tajfel and Turner 1986). Feeling secure about one's own ethnic identity is also assumed to be associated with more positive attitudes toward other groups. An achieved ethnic identity may be related to the ability to assume the perspective of other groups, to adopt a multicultural perspective, and to see the place of one's own group in a larger perspective.
Western European Studies: Gender and History
K. Crawford, in International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2001
2.4 Gender Roles as Performance
Recent efforts to explore the history of identity formation have incorporated post-structuralist theories to tease out how the self was defined in gendered terms and how the gendered self related to others and to entities such as the state. Continental post-structuralist feminism has largely followed Jacques Lacan's psychoanalytic theory, developing the analysis of discourse in a mode which remains highly attenuated from material concerns. Lacanian psychoanalysis feminists, led by Julia Kristeva (1980), have re-interpreted the mirror stage of development to emphasize the abjection of the female subject. If the unspoken male subject in Lacan's formulation comes to his identity through engagement with the mirror image of the self, for the female subject, this experience is violent and alienating.
Judith Butler's articulation of gender as performance captures a number of elements of post-structuralist theory which have then been utilized to examine identity formation in the past. Butler (1990) argues that gender is best understood as a performance in which the subject is constituted in relation to the regulatory practices of society. The norms of these practices are themselves culturally constructed around heterosexuality defined by masculine and feminine binaries. Gender is actually wholly performative around those binaries such that it exists only in constituting a particular identity. While some historians expressed concern with the postmodern tendency to deconstruct without offering positive constructions, notions of identity as performative have helped recuperate historically specific moments of identity formation. Understanding gender as a signifying practice helps reveal how it is integral to other expressions of identity in specific historical settings.
Affect in Online Discourse
Scott J. Warren, Jenny S. Wakefield, in Emotions, Technology, and Learning, 2016
Although we encourage our students as instructors to enter into identity formation, to think and discover nature and meaning, and to arrive at knowledge, the central message the system influences—framed by political and economic powers—is one that views students not as individual humans, but as Foucault (1976/1981) called them, individual objects or cases. This generates quiet and attentive students. Viewed from this perspective, the way we determine future success is by testing, because it “is the technique by which power … holds [learners] in a mechanism of objectification … the examination is, as it were, the ceremony of this objectification” (p. 199). It is this objective that, as Freire (1970) correspondingly stated, “attempts to control thinking and action, leads men and women to adjust to the world, and inhibits their creative power” (p. 77).
Personality development in adolescence
Patrick L. Hill, Grant W. Edmonds, in Personality Development Across the Lifespan, 2017
Identity development as a catalyst for personality change
Classically, adolescence was defined as a period during which individuals achieve identity formation and consolidation, or are mired in a state of identity confusion and profuse exploration (Erikson, 1959; Marcia, 1980). Additional work in this handbook describes identity development in greater detail (Klimstra & van Doeselar, Chapter 18), and thus we focus our attention here to its role specific to the Big Five. First, researchers have considered identity aspects, or subcomponents of feeling a consolidated sense of identity, in line with definitions of Erikson (1959) and others. For instance, Hill et al. (2013) examined whether adolescents perceived a sense of personal authenticity, control over their environments, as well as whether they were facing similar or inconsistent expectations across social roles. Each of the Big Five traits was initially related to at least one identity aspect, suggesting a relationship between personality and identity during adolescence. Moreover, over the span of a year, all traits with the exception of openness evidenced correlated changes with the identity aspects. For instance, adolescents who reported higher levels of conscientiousness over the year tended also to report higher authenticity and environmental control. Increases on emotional stability coincided with reports of greater environmental control and more consistency in expectations across social roles. Accordingly, it appears that the process of navigating identity formation may coincide with developments with respect to the Big Five personality traits.
Second, research has demonstrated the importance of considering how individuals process information relevant for self-knowledge. Specifically, Berzonsky (1990, 1992) has suggested that individuals tend to adopt one of three methods for processing identity-relevant information: (1) an informational approach, marked by deliberation and more active knowledge-seeking, (2) a normative approach, defined by a tendency to follow norms and the information provided by close associates, and (3) a diffuse style, in which the individual is uninterested in thinking about one’s identity. Work with late adolescents suggests that openness to experience appears highly related to informational processing, while conscientiousness is associated with a more normative style (Duriez & Soenens, 2006; Duriez, Soenens, & Beyers, 2004). In addition, this work demonstrates that a more diffuse approach appears to coincide with a maladaptive personality profile, insofar that diffusion scores correlated with lower levels on agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience. As such, at least in cross-sectional data, research exists to suggest that the linkages between personality and identity development are even found with respect to the social-cognitive mechanisms underlying identity formation.
Third, research has targeted two processes central to identity development: (1) commitment to an identity and (2) exploration of identity options. Work with adolescents suggests that openness is linked to greater exploration, while neuroticism is negatively associated with commitment but positively with exploration (Klimstra, Luyckx, Goossens, Teppers, & De Fruyt, 2013). Though longitudinal work is needed with adolescents, work with emerging adults suggests that identity exploration and commitment do appear to change in tandem with the Big Five traits (Luyckx, Soenens, & Goossens, 2006). Support for personality and identity co-development has also been found with respect to the domain of educational identity development (Klimstra, Luyckx, Germeijs, Meeus, & Goossens, 2012). Across the three years of assessment, college students who increased their commitment to an educational identity (a sense that one is certain and confident in the educational path chosen) tended also to increase on extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. This work also points to the potential for commitments to societally prescribed roles, such as identifying as a student, to play a role in personality development, a central tenet of maturation theories.
The Economics of Cultural Transmission and Socialization
Alberto Bisin, Thierry Verdier, in Handbook of Social Economics, 2011
3.4.7 Cultural distinction
Bisin, Patacchini, Verdier, and Zenou (2010) study instead identity formation, aiming at distinguishing cultural conformity from cultural distinction.61 They exploit the Fourth National Survey of Ethnic Minorities (FNSEM) of the U.K. The dataset oversamples Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, African-Asian, Bangladeshi, and Chinese and contains a direct survey question about respondents' identification with their own ethnic group and additional (indirect) information about different dimensions of identity (e.g., attitudes towards inter marriage, importance of religion and other aspects of individuals' ethnic preferences).
To better address the possible endogeneity of residential decisions Bisin, Patacchini, Verdier, and Zenou (2010) proceeds in steps, from a non-structural probit analysis of identity and homogamy in terms of ethnic composition to fully structural models of ethnic integration. The probit displays a negative relationship between ethnic identity and the share of the ethnic group in the neighborhood, for those neighborhoods in which the share is above 20%, a result consistent with cultural distinction, see Figure 20.62
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Figure 20. Non linear effect of neighborhood ethnic composition on identity and homogamy.
Source: Bisin, Patacchini, Verdier, and Zenou (2010).
The structural analysis of identity formation exploits the identity formation choice model (extended to jointly determine identity and homogamy in marriage) outlined in Section 2.2.5. The model produces a map between identity vi and the psychological costs of interacting with the majority c(qi). A non-parametric estimate of c(qi) under the restrictions of the model is also consistent with ethnic identity being formed as a cultural distinction mechanism, and so is a structural estimate of the model parameterized to formally nest distinction and conformity and to allow individuals to choose the neighborhood where to reside depending on its ethnic composition.63
The speed of integration predicted by the structural model at the estimated parameter values can be gauged upon from Figures 21 and 22, reporting predicted identity and homogamy, respectively, as a function of time spent in the U.K. The ethnic homogamy rate, for instance, is predicted to decline less than 10% between first and second immigration immigrants.
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Figure 21. Predicted identity as a function of time in the U.K.
Source: Bisin, Patacchini, Verdier, and Zenou (2010).
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Figure 22. Predicted homogamy as a function of time in the U.K.
Source: Bisin, Patachini, Verdier, and Zenou (2009).
Finally, cultural distinction is also consistent with the literature on participation in social activities as a function of segregation and fractionalization, as in Alesina and La Ferrara (2000), Putnam (2007), Letki (2008), and Fumagalli and Fumagalli (2010).
Conflict: Education and Youth
Sarah Dryden-Peterson, ... Vidur Chopra, in International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (Second Edition), 2015
Youth and Conflict: Challenging Assumptions
One of the defining developmental experiences of youth is the transition from childhood to adulthood and the identity formation processes that accompany this critical developmental stage (Johnson et al., 2011). Due to the relative lack of tailored services for youth, young people are caught between programming designed for children or for adults, leaving them either excluded and ‘on the margins’ (Sommers, 2007) or funneled into programs that are mismatched for their developmental stage. Further complicating youth as a target population, legal definitions and culturally specific roles for youth shift (see, Clark-Kazak, 2009), more so in conflict settings than otherwise. In times of conflict, youth do not experience typical childhoods but prematurely enter adult worlds; conversely, conflicts can delay traditional rites of passage and hinder access to markers of adulthood, so that youth cannot become socially recognized adults (Sommers, 2012).
What is the relationship between youth populations and propensity for conflict? There are competing theories. Noncausal empirical research demonstrates that countries with youth bulges and poor economic performance are more susceptible to domestic armed conflict (Urdal, 2006) and democratic instability (Weber, 2013). Two dominant theoretical perspectives have attempted to explain this hypothesis. The first is an economic or opportunity theory approach, where a sudden supply of youth labor in an economic system unable to generate enough jobs and absorb a surge of youth labor supply will render many unemployed. As a consequence, armed groups tend to fill this vacuum by providing alternate income generating opportunities (Brown, 2010; Collier, 2007; Collier and Hoeffler, 2004). The second is a sociobiological approach, where young men (15–29 years), given their developmental stage, are considered to have higher propensities for extremist attitudes and intergroup hate and violence (Weber, 2013). Collier states that “eing young, being uneducated, and being without dependents” may make one more likely to engage in political violence (2007). For some time, these two theories have dominated much of the discourse on youth in conflict, even though researchers have attempted to nuance them, as we discuss below (Beber and Blattman, 2013; Cincotta, 2008; Sommers, 2012; Urdal, 2006).
These theories do not account for three important dimensions of youth in conflict settings. First, they do not account for the agency and resilience that youth exhibit in shaping their life choices even under severe structural constraints and stressful situations (Blum and Blum, 2009). Second, they do not sufficiently illuminate the various ways that education systems interact with youth experience and thus reproduce and/or interrupt conflict. Finally, these theories do not account adequately for the interactions of various social, political, and historical circumstances. For example, in both stable Botswana and conflict-affected Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 22% of the population is between the ages of 15 and 24 (Central Intelligence Agency, 2013). Yet these oversized youth populations have not erupted into conflict in both places; while DRC has been engulfed in conflict for more than two decades, Botswana has been stable. A ‘youth bulge’ combined, as in DRC, with well-established armed groups and a lack of education and employment possibilities can shift the opportunity structure in favor of participating in conflict, over prosocial choices. Similarly, the ‘Arab Spring’ cannot be considered only a function of a youth bulge but is also associated with stagnating economies as well as corruption and poor governance in many of the countries that experienced these widespread protests (Pollack, 2011). These contexts demonstrate how conflict is embedded in particular sociopolitical contexts and historical moments.
Further theories circulate around youth vulnerability and susceptibility to joining armed groups based on adolescent desires to consolidate their social identity during a critical identity formation stage. Identity threat is among the many drivers of conflict (Novelli and Lopes Cardozo, 2008). Relying on developmental explanations, some argue that in an attempt to explore and assert their identities, youth are easily influenced and conformist in their attitudes, thereby exhibiting greater tendencies toward extremism and recruitment by armed rebel groups (Blattman and Annan, 2010). However, mounting evidence from the field of adolescent and youth development indicates that identity development is progressive and continues even in adulthood. Conceptions of ourselves ‘vary along a continuum’ (Davies, 2008: p. 187) such that different aspects of identity emerge and change over time along this developmental continuum (Meeus, 2011). This calls into question the sociobiological mechanisms that underpin the ‘youth bulge’ hypothesis. If identity statuses progress over adolescence and well into adulthood, there is little support for the argument that identity-driven attitudes of inter- and intragroup hatred and violence are not malleable among youth.
Frederick Walborn, in Religion in Personality Theory, 2014
Marcia’s Four Identity Statuses
In 1966, Marcia published his first article on identity development. He classified people’s identity formation into one of four categories based on whether a person had gone through a crisis and whether the person had made a commitment in an important area of life. One of these important areas of life concerns religious issues. The four identity statuses are achieved, moratorium, foreclosed, and diffused.
I prefer the term questioning rather than crisis, because many people question their religious/spiritual beliefs, but do not have to go through a major crisis similar to Luther’s fit in the choir. However, I use the term crisis because this is the term used in the literature.
The achieved and foreclosed statuses have made a commitment. The difference is that achieved people have gone through a crisis, or time of questioning their faith or spirituality. Foreclosed people, however, have strong beliefs and have made a commitment, but they have not gone through a crisis. That is, they just go along with whatever faith they were raised with and do not question that faith. Research does support that religiously committed people are more likely to be of the identity achievement and foreclosure statuses, compared to the less religiously inclined (Markstrom-Adams, Hofstra, & Dougher, 1994; Hunsberger, Pratt, & Pancer, 2001; Tzuriel, 1984).
Fulton (1997) found identity achievement (crisis and commitment) people are more likely to have an intrinsic religious orientation. That is, their practices of their faith are based on internal reasons and they are genuinely committed to their faith (Allport, 1950). Whereas foreclosed identities (no crisis, but makes a commitment) are more likely to exhibit an extrinsic religious orientation. That is, extrinsically motivated people are more motivated by external reasons, such as appearing to be a good person; going to church or the temple is what they should do. With Mormon and Jewish participants, identity diffusion (no crisis and no commitment) are also more likely to be associated with an extrinsic religious orientation (Markstrom-Adams & Smith, 1996).
The moratorium identity status (crisis but no commitment) is frequently considered to be the status of many adolescents and young adults in various areas of life. For example, it is common for college students not to have made a commitment to a career; yet they are questioning or struggling, as apparent by the number of times that they change their majors. Research does support that people with moratorium identities (crisis, but no commitment) are more religiously doubting or questioning (Hunsberger, Pratt, and Pancer, 2001).
When religious people are in a crisis, or a time of doubting, do they seek people and literature that would support their beliefs (belief-confirming consultation), or do they seek a balance and seek friends with no religious preference or even literature that is against their beliefs (belief-threatening consultation)? People who scored higher on identity achievement (crisis and commitment) tend to seek out belief-confirming and belief-threatening consultations (Hunsberger, Pratt, & Pancer, 2001). The identity foreclosed group (no crisis, but commitment) significantly sought less threatening consultation. They did not want to hear information that challenged their beliefs. The diffused group (no crisis and no commitment) did not seek out consultation.
Marcia’s nomenclature of the four identity categories is promising for future research. Even though identity achievement and identity foreclosed have strong beliefs, their cognitive rationales for their faith are substantially different. The identity achievement, after going through a time of questioning and crisis, has affirmed their beliefs. Whereas the identity foreclosed, also testifying to strong commitment, have never questioned their religion. It will be exciting to see what develops from future research.
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