Identity Crisis – Theory and Research

Are you unsure of your role in life? Do you feel that you don’t know who you really are?

If your answer is yes, is likely to experience identity crisis. Theorist Erik Erikson was the one who coined the term “identity crisis”, believing it is one of the most important inner conflicts that people face in personal development.

erik eriksonAccording to Erikson, identity crisis is a period of intense analysis of the different ways of relating to themselves. Erikson’s interest in identity has developed since childhood. Raised in the Jewish religion, Erikson seemed rather Scandinavian, feeling alien to both groups. Subsequent studies of cultural life have contributed to Erikson’s ideas about the development of identity and identity crisis.

Erikson described identity as “Ego-identity in this case in its subjective aspect, is the realization that there is a self consistency and continuity of methods of synthesis of the ego, a persons’ individuality, style and that this style coincides what others understand as significant from the immediate community through consistency and continuity of that person”.

Research on identity

In Erikson’s stages of psycho-social development the appearance of identity crisis occurs during adolescence, when people fight between feelings of identity and confusion. Researcher James Marcia developed the original theory of Erikson. According to Marcia and his colleagues, the balance between identity and confusion is found in a commitment to an identity.

Marcia has so developed a method to measure identity and four states of identity. This method is oriented towards areas of functionality: occupational role, beliefs and values, sexuality.

Identity states:

- Identity realization: what happens when individual has explored different identities and made a commitment to one.

- Moratorium is a state of person who is actively involved in exploring different identities, but made no commitment.

- Execution state is when a person chooses an identity without previous exploration.

- Identity diffusion occurs when there is no identity crisis, no commitment to one.

The researches found that those who have made a strong commitment to a particular identity tend to be happier and healthier than those who have not done so. Those with a sense of identity diffusion tend to feel that they didn’t find their place in the world and fail to gain an identity.

In today’s world in constant motion, identity crisis is more common than in the days of Erikson. Exploring different aspects of self in various areas of life, including the role of work in the family and romantic relationships, can help strengthen their own identity.

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Posted in Psychological Science
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