The search for personal identity is the central task of growing up and acts as a complex phenomenon, covering various levels of consciousness, individual and collective, ontogenetic and sociogenetic foundations. Identity should be a personal space and therefore is to be mastered by the person themselves and not imposed on them from the outside. Four identity statuses are distinguished depending on the levels of commitment and self-exploration:
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- Achieved identity is the status of a person who has gone through a period of crisis and self-exploration and has formed a specific set of goals, values , and beliefs personally significant for him. Such a person knows who he is and what he wants and structures his life accordingly.
- Moratorium is a term that, following E. Erickson, J. Marcia uses concerning a person in a state of identity crisis and actively trying to resolve it by trying various options. Such a person is constantly on the lookout for helpful information for resolving the situation.
- Foreclosed identity is a status attributed to a person who has never experienced a state of an identity crisis but has a specific set of goals, values , and beliefs. The content and strength of these elements can be the same as those of those who have achieved identity; their formation processes are different.
- Diffused identity is a characteristic of people who do not have vital goals, values , and beliefs and do not actively try to form them. They either have never been in a state of crisis or cannot solve the problems that have arisen.
Adjustment Outcomes of Each Status
Considering the peculiarities of each identity status, it is worth noting the differences in their adjustment outcomes. Thus, an individual with an achieved identity is characterized by a sense of trust, stability, optimism about the future. Awareness of difficulties does not diminish their desire to adhere to the chosen direction. Moreover, they experience their goals, values, and beliefs as personally important and meaningful, providing confidence and meaning in life. In contrast, a diffuse identity is characterized by the absence of obligations, a minimum of perceived values and roles, lack of a cherished dream; relationships with parents are assessed as emotionally cold, distant, the most significant degree of conformity under the influence of a peer group. The predetermined status describes a young person’s state as having established themselves in their basic orientations in the complete absence of a crisis being experienced; relations with parents are very close, up to entire leadership in decision-making situations. In the status of a moratorium, a person is actually in a state of crisis of choice between alternatives. Their preferences are uncertain; they strive for independent decision-making up to conflicts with significant others.
Factors that Promote Identity Development
Certain factors contribute to identity development with regards to identity statuses. Hence, personal characteristics along with child-rearing practices play an essential role in personality formation. They, in turn, influence the levels of attachment and openness of a person, leading to different social experiences and relationships with peers. Culture and other societal forces also have a significant impact on one’s identity development. Moreover, the development of identity is nonlinear. It goes through the so-called crises, periods when a conflict arises between the configuration of identity elements that have developed and the corresponding way of “inscribing” oneself into the surrounding world.