How identity develops: using attachment, differentiation, mood, communication, and personal narrative to predict identity status among emerging adults

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Benjamin T. Willis (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Craig Cashwell

Abstract: Identity has been acknowledged by scholars as an important part of human development for about 50 years (Erikson, 1968), and researchers have found empirical support for the importance of identity development. Much of the identity development research is based on Erik Erikson's psychosocial development (Erikson, 1968) and James Marcia's (1966) identity statuses that expanded on the identity versus role confusion stage in Erikson's model. Specifically, the identity statuses relate to whether an individual has committed to an identity and whether the individual has explored her or his identity or had an identity crisis. Many researchers have found that committing to an identity clearly is connected with greater overall wellness (Hofer, Kartner, Chasiotis, Busch, & Keissling, 2007; Schwartz, Beyers, et al. 2011a,). Phinney (1989) and Meeus, Iedema, Helsen, and Vollebergh (1999) also have shown that not committing to an identity is linked with higher levels of psychological distress such as depression or anxiety. Researchers studying identity statuses have developed a clear understanding that committing to an identity tends to result in greater overall wellness and lower levels of psychological distress, yet it is not yet fully apparent what factors best predict Marcia's identity statuses (Kroger, Martinussen, & Marcia, 2010; Meeus et al., 1999). Two different predictors of identity status, attachment and differentiation of self, have been proposed and empirically examined. Generally, researchers have found mild to moderate correlations between attachment style and identity status (Arseth, Kroger, Martinussen, & Marcia, 2009b; Berman, Weems, Rodriguez, & Zamora, 2006; Kennedy, 1999; MacKinnon & Marcia, 2002) and between differentiation of self and identity status (Ford, Nalbone, Wetchler, & Sutton, 2008; Jenkins, Buboltz Jr., Schwartz, & Johnson, 2005; Johnson, Buboltz Jr., & Seemann, 2003). No study was located that investigated both constructs together as predictors of identity status, so it is unknown what portion of the predictive ability of each is shared, warranting an examination of the two as simultaneous predictors. At the same time, because these correlations have been modest, it seems there is a need to consider other possible predictors of identity status (Kroger, 2007; Marcia, 1989; 2002). Accordingly, three constructs (mood, communication, and personal narrative), based on Eisenberg's (2001) Identity Process Model, also were considered as predictors. The purpose of this study, then, was to test a more comprehensive model of six predictor variables (attachment-related anxiety, attachment-related avoidance, differentiation of self, mood, communication, and personal narrative) based on theoretical connections between Bowlby (1973, 1982, 1988) and Ainsworth's (1978; 1989; Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978) work on attachment styles, Bowen's (1976, 1978) work on differentiation of self, and Eisenberg's (2001) Identity Process Model, as well as some recent empirical investigations (Arseth et al., 2009b; Berman et al., 2006; Ford et al., 2008; Jenkins et al., 2005; MacKinnon & Marcia, 2002). This study was built on the previous research and served to connect different theoretical orientations to better understand identity statuses and their predictors, which will further inform the development processes within counseling. The results showed that more variance in identity status can be explained when using the proposed predictors than has been found in previous research. Also, the identity statuses have different predictors that significantly predict each status. This knowledge can provide counselors with a framework for better understanding identity development and for how to facilitate clients' work in counseling. Implications for counselors, counselor educators, and researchers are discussed including recommendations of counseling interventions to encourage identity development and the associated wellness benefits.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Counseling, Identity, Identity Development, Identity Status
Identity (Psychology) in youth
Developmental psychology

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