Developing a Sense of Identity
Adolescence is a very important part of human development. It is at this point that people will summarize their entire life and decide who they want to be. Teenagers will test different roles until deciding which identity they fit most comfortably in. Teenagers may try on different roles with different people, behaving in different ways around their school friends and their sports friends.
When psychologists talk about identity, they are referring to the beliefs and values that guide a person's behavior and actions throughout life. Your sense of identity gives you a sense of who you are as a person. While the formation of identity is an important part of adolescence, it is a process that will continue throughout your entire life. While attempting to develop a set identity, teenagers also develop the capacity to experience intimacy with others.
Developing an identity is also very taxing on relationships with parents. Adolescents tend to break from their strong childhood connections with parents in order to find their appropriate identity. Peer influence begins to replace parental influence. Teenagers seem to lean toward friends for advice in matters while breaking the bonds with their parents.
This change in behavior could be explained through a biological stance. A human at this point is looking for courtship or possibly more than that, and in doing so, will display the appropriate biologically important aspects in order to gain a mate: men as protective creatures and women as nurturers.
A psychologist names Erik Erikson (1902–1994) was very interested in the formation of identity. Erikson believed that during adolescence teens experience a conflict that he referred to as “identity versus role confusion.” In order to form an identity successfully, teens experiment with different roles until they develop an integrated self-definition, incorporating the many dimensions of their personalities with the role they hope to someday take up within society as a whole. In a 1980 article published in the Handbook of Adolescent Psychology, researcher James Marcia suggests that the key to finding a balance between identity and role confusion hinges on whether a person makes a commitment to this identity. Some individuals reach what is known as identity achievement, in which they have gone through a period of exploration and have made a commitment to an identity. These individuals are typically happier and healthier than people who are still struggling to carve out a unique identity.