Chapter 5

Constructing a Self

Achieving Autonomy: The process of defining the self leads to a renegotiation of the parent-child relationship during adolescence. This renegotiation initially is prompted by the biological changes of puberty and changes in the way adolescents think. Adolescents become more autonomous as they choose to be part of the decision-making process, asking to be treated as more adult and taking responsibility for the consequences of the decisions they make.
Key Terms: autonomous

The Role of Parents: The role parents play in the development of autonomy can be thought of (1) as promoting independence, in which adolescents must first distance themselves emotionally from their parents, or (2) as promoting self-determination by helping adolescents discover their interests and values. Self-determination contributes to self-esteem and well-being.

Connectedness with Parents: The sense of oneself that adolescents achieve as they distinguish their own attitudes and beliefs from those of their parents and become more self-governing is termed individuation. Family characteristics of individuality and connectedness facilitate the process of identity achievement. These qualities of family life help adolescents explore options while feeling emotionally supported even when family disagreements arise.
Key Terms: individuation, individuality, connectedness

Identity as a Normative Crisis of Adolescence

Achieving an identity is a central task facing adolescents. Resolving the psychosocial crisis of identity gives one a coherent, purposeful sense of self. Erikson used the word crisis to refer to a developmental turning point in which adolescents must choose one course or another simply because it is no longer possible for them to continue as before.
Key Terms: identity, possible selves

Identity Statuses: James Marcia, largely responsible for generating research on identity formation by constructing a measure of identity for empirically testing adolescents, notes that achieving a personal identity is not an easy process. Adolescents must be willing to take risks and live with uncertainty. According to Marcia, a number of identity statuses can be distinguished based on the presence or absence of exploration of life options and commitment to self-chosen alternatives.
Key Terms: exploration, commitment, identity statuses, identity achievement, identity foreclosure, moratorium, identity diffusion, carefree diffusion

Identity Styles: Michael Berzonsky offers an alternative way of thinking about identity statuses, envisioning them as “organizers” of experience, versus “organizations” of experience. He suggests individuals differ in the way they process information relevant to the self. For instance, some individuals actively search for information that might be relevant to their problems, then carefully evaluate that information before making decisions. He terms this style an information orientation.
Key Terms: information oriented, diffuse/avoidant oriented, normative oriented

Adolescents and the Internet: Most American adolescents today use the Internet, and individuals of either sex spend about the same amount of time online, with the exception of heavy game players who tend to be male. A substantial percentage of adolescents indicate they have pretended to be other than who they are when online: This experimentation with their identity can contribute to their social competence by increasing the number of interactions in which they can practice their social skills.

Identity: Gender and Ethnicity

Gender Differences in Identity Formation: Research finds few gender differences in identity development. When gender differences emerge, they most frequently show interpersonal concerns to figure more centrally in females’ than males’ identities, as well as differences in timing. For instance, issues of identity and intimacy are more apt to be resolved concurrently in females than in males.

Contributions of Ethnicity to Identity Development: For adolescents who are members of an ethnic minority, the process of identity formation includes an additional step, one of resolving issues related to their ethnic identity. Ethnic identity is a way of understanding oneself in terms of the values and traditions of one’s group, and its development progresses through several stages that correlate with ego identity statuses.
Key Terms: ethnic identity, acculturation, unexamined ethnic identity, ethnic identity search, achieved ethnic identity, bicultural identity

Understanding the Self: Cultural Contributions

A fundamental dimension running through the socialization process is a culture’s understanding of “self” in relation to others. Whether one belongs to an individualistic culture or a collectivist culture cannot help but color an adolescent’s view of their rights and responsibilities in the world.
Key Terms: individualistic cultures, collectivist cultures, agency

Self-Concept: Who Am I?: The beliefs adolescents have about themselves determine many of their emotional reactions, and these self-concepts become more abstract, differentiated, and adaptive during adolescence. In fact, many of the “self” statements adolescents include in their self-concepts reflect potential more than actual accomplishments.
Key Terms: self-concept

Self-Esteem: Do I Like Myself? Self-esteem reflects the overall positive or negative attitude adolescents have about the self. Relationships with parents and peers and satisfaction with one’s body provide the foundations for self-esteem.
Key Terms: self-esteem

Intimacy: Discovering the Self through Relationships

Knowing Oneself: Intimacy is the sharing of innermost feelings and thoughts in an atmosphere of caring, trust, and acceptance. To be intimate with others, adolescents must first know and accept themselves.
Key Terms: intimacy

Intimacy with Others: Self disclosure may provide a vehicle for intimacy with others. Intimacy is often contingent on achieving identity, at least for males. For females, intimacy is often the means by which identity is resolved.

Intimacy and Identity: Different Paths to Maturity?

Developmental Issues in Adolescence: Development has traditionally been viewed in terms of increasing autonomy and separation from others. Research on adolescent-parent relationships and on female development questions this view.

Dimensions of Relatedness: Relationships between adolescents and parents show that continuing emotional attachment and increasing autonomy coexist and are different aspects of the same process.

Gender Differences in Relatedness: For females, relationships with others contribute importantly to their sense of self. Males, on the other hand, gain a sense of themselves through their actions, through doing, according to Josselson.

A New Definition of Maturity: Because these gender differences in individuals’ sense of self are sufficiently great, we need to redefine identity to include the concept of self in relation to others. New definitions of maturity should also include increasing autonomy and separateness.