LivingIdentity in adolescence: what changes does it undergo?

Identity in adolescence: what changes does it undergo?

Identity defines who we are , how we feel and what represents us. During adolescence, the search for this identity becomes a very important process.

The American clinical and developmental psychologist and professor, James E. Marcia, developed a theory to explain the four stages of adolescent identity, and how each one goes through ; that is, how adolescent identity evolves and what changes it undergoes.

He came to his theory thanks to his research, from hundreds of interviews with adolescents, and with all this he proposed the existence of four types of identity status during adolescence.

The four categories differ according to the presence or absence of crisis and commitment, two elements that previous authors, such as the American psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, an expert in psychology and development, considered crucial for the formation of identity.

Crisis and commitment: two key factors in identity

Before knowing how identity evolves in adolescence, based on Marcia’s four phases, we are going to know what is meant by crisis and by commitment, the two key elements in identity.

Marcia defined crisis as a period of conscious decision making by the adolescent (not so much a “life crisis”). For its part, commitment is the personal investment that each person makes in a certain occupation, hobby or belief system (which has to do with the ideology of each adolescent).

The combination of these two elements, that is, the absence or presence of the crisis and commitment, will determine the four levels or status of adolescent identity.

Four types of adolescent identity

We talk about the four types of adolescent identity; or rather, of the four stages through which identity can pass as the adolescent matures and experiences personal crises and commits himself (or not) to things, to his ideals and to his future, etc. How can this identity be and what does it depend on?

fuzzy identity

In this phase there is no crisis or commitment on the part of the adolescent. This means that, at this level, the adolescent is confused and feels uncertain about the path to choose for the formation of his identity.

In other words: you feel lost, not knowing what to do. At this stage, the adolescent may also feel apathetic and disoriented, with a certain chaos in his life.

You haven’t yet experienced the existential crisis of asking “Who am I?” or “What do I want to do with my life?” And the answers are not clear either.

mortgaged identity

In this stage of identity, which is also known as exclusion from identity, there is no crisis but there is commitment . We speak in this case of adolescents who are committed to occupational and ideological positions (they begin to choose what to do), but who have not yet experienced a crisis.

It happens that many young people stop the search for identity without ever reconsidering the values of their parents (they do not question things so much; they simply follow the path that “is expected” of them).

The result of all this is a premature identity, in which the adolescent accepts the previous roles and the values of the parents en bloc, instead of exploring alternatives and truly forging their own identity.

  • An example of mortgaged identity

An example of an adolescent in this phase is one who since he was a child wanted to follow his father’s medical parents, studying the same (perhaps he was pressured to do so).

In this case, the adolescent prepares himself by choosing the scientific baccalaureate , and follows all the steps to study medicine… but in the third year of his career, he discovers that what he really wanted to be was an archaeologist, or a poet.

moratorium identity

It is the stage of the search for identity . At this stage, the adolescent suffers a crisis (the conscious decision making of things) but does not commit to anything.

This means that in the process of finding their own identity, a mature identity, many adolescents seem to declare a “moratorium”, that is a kind of “truce” during which they experiment with alternative identities without having to decide on any.

In this stage they test, investigate, explore and experiment ; For example, we are talking about young people who change their style of dress every week, who dye their hair, who change their group of friends…

It is a kind of “pause” in identity formation, allowing adolescents to explore alternatives without making a final decision .

Consolidated identity: achievement of identity

In this state there is already crisis and commitment; this means that identity is already achieved; from the awareness of certain things (crisis), commitment is reached (personal investment in something).

Thus, the final objective of all these phases is reached when adolescents achieve their new identity thanks to the establishment, ideally, of their own objectives and values , abandoning some of those that had been established by parents and society.

At this stage they also accept new values; in short: they find their own.

Teenage identity: evolution

The four categories of identity are not permanent, and can change during the development of people.

Generally, yes, it usually begins with the diffuse phase (the adolescent feels confused), and ends in the fourth stage (the discovery of one’s own identity ).

On the other hand, we know that, from the end of adolescence onwards, more and more people find themselves in states of moratorium or achievement; that is, searching or finding their own identity and maturity . It’s normal!

However, many, even as young adults, remain in the stages of diffusion or exclusion (not knowing where to go, not recognizing themselves…). Each person must trace their own path, and as parents, it is important that we can accompany our children in this process.

Factors that influence the construction of identity

Thus, Marcia’s stages are not linear, and each adolescent will trace their own path towards personal identity and self-knowledge. We do know, however, that this path is influenced by different factors, among which we find:

  • The genetic inheritance.
  • The lived experiences.
  • Perceived emotional support .
  • The education received.
  • Family and friends.
  • personality and resilience.
  • The curiosity of each

“The identity of a person is not the name they have, the place where they were born, or the date they came into the world. The identity of a person consists simply in being, and being cannot be denied.”

-Jose Saramago-

Photos | Cover (freepik), Image 1 (freepik), Image 2 (freepik)

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