Identity in Adolescence
James E. Marcia
One difficulty in studying adolescence is the definition of the period itself. It is somewhat variable but specific in its beginnings with the physiological changes of puberty; it is highly variable and nonspecific in its end. If the termination of adolescence were to depend on the attainment of a certain psychosocial position, the formation of an identity. then. for some. it would never end. Moreover. identity is an even more difficult term to delimit than is adolescence. Identity refers to an existential position. to an inner organization of needs. abilities. and self-perceptions as well as to a sociopolitical stance. Studying identity in adolescence is not a task for the methodologically hypersensitive. In this chapter. I shall not try to cover every bit of research done on identity in adolescence. What I shall d o is take a theoretical position. ego psychoanalytic. discuss research conducted within that theoretical framework. and suggest some directions for future investigation. Erik Erikson (1959. 1963. 1968) has been the most influential writer on identity in the past two decades. He places identity within the context of egopsychoanalytic theory, viewing it as the epigenetically based psychosocial task distinctive. but not exclusive. to adolescence.
Identity has been called a "sense." an "attitude." a "resolution." and s o on. I would like to propose another way of construing identity: as a self-structure - an internal. sdf-constructed. dynamic organization of drives. abilities. beliefs, and individual history. The better developed this structure is. the more aware individuals appear to be of their own uniqueness and similarity to others and of their own strengths and weaknesses in making their way in the world. The less developed this structure is. the more confused individuals seem about their own distinctiveness from others and the more they have to rely o n external...