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Discuss research into the formation of identity in adolescence

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Discuss research into the formation of identity in adolescence The formation of identity is a key feature of adolescence according to several theories. For example, Erikson's psychosocial theory of personality development, adolescence involves a 'crisis' resulting in either identity formation or role confusion. This concerns the adolescent having to establish who they are and what they will do with their adult life. The theory suggests that, in childhood, people incorporate the values of those who are most important in their life, and in adolescence some of these values are retained but some are abandoned. All of this is a process of the development of an individual identity, which, albeit applicable to modern individualist cultures where individual identity is valued, may not be temporally or culturally valid. That is, in most collectivist cultures, group identity is much more valued than individual identity, and often choices are limited as to what will happen in the future. This used to be similar in many Western cultures: it was often a given that men would continue their father's career and women would get married and look after the house and children. ...read more.


Others, however, argue that it is not, such as Larson & Lampman-Petraitis (1989) who found no link between the onset of adolescence and increased emotionality. However, the stress as described in the above studies may not be an indicator of a crisis in adolescence, and even then the crisis may not be that of identity formation as suggested by Erikson. Marcia (1966) produced a theory similar to that of Erikson. He did so by interviewing adolescents going through a crisis, and found that in the formation of identity adolescents may be in any of four 'statuses': identity diffusion, identity foreclosure, moratorium and identity achievement. These statuses depend on two variables: crisis and commitment. Crisis is described as the examination of opportunities and identity issues, and commitment as the extent to which the individual commits to aspirations and other plans for the future. For example, an adolescent who has a wide range of choice open to them, who examines these choices and who succeeds in fulfilling them will have been through a crisis and committed, and is therefore in the identity ...read more.


Kroger (1996) found that those in identity achievement functioned better under stress than those in moratorium, which supports the idea that moratorium is a period of ongoing crisis. However, there are many methodological criticisms which suggest that the theory may not be entirely valid. For example, the sample was entirely male, and gender differences in the development of identity in adolescence may, and probably do, exist. Additionally, the idea of crisis as seen by Marcia does not take into account emotional or personal factors in identity development, instead paying attention primarily to a choice of career, and might therefore have low construct validity. Internal validity may also be lacking, since the interview technique used by Marcia was to give one-off interviews, which do not provide a good indication of how adolescents change and develop (instead just seeing how they are at one moment in time). Additionally, interviews give qualitative data, so the categorisation of adolescents into the for statuses is a reductionist analysis of this data, especially since it focuses on only two factors in identity development (crisis and commitment). * chick-sent-ME-hal-yee - I dare you to try and pronounce it right Clive Newstead ...read more.

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