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Adolescent Identity Exploration: a Test of Erikson's Theory of Transitional Crisis

By | December 2010
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Adolescent Identity Exploration: A Test of Erikson’s Theory of Transitional Crisis
Kidwell, Dunham, and Richard (1995) investigated Erikson’s theory that adolescent identity exploration is associated with a variety of symptoms, such as fluctuations in ego strength, mood swings, rebelliousness, and heightened physical symptoms. They sampled a total of 82 high school students (43 males, 39 females) between the ages of 14 and 17. These students were academically superior high school students who attended the Florida State University Summer Science and Mathematics Camp during the summers of 1988 (30 students) and 1989 (52 students). The minimum requirements for admission to the program included percentile ranks of 90 or more on standardized achievement tests, as well as sustained high academic performance. The students were from the middle-to-upper-middle class socioeconomic status. They responded to the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and the Ego Identity Interview (Grotevant & Cooper, 1981). Results showed that adolescents who were actively engaged in identity exploration were more likely to produce a personality pattern characterized by self doubt, confusion, disturbed thinking, impulsivity, conflict with parents and authority figures, reduced ego strength, and increased physical symptoms.

Although results were interesting, there are several limitations in the study that must be considered. The Ego Identity Interview (Grotevant & Cooper, 1981) was based on Marcia’s (1964) operationalization of Erikson’s theory (1968) regarding adolescence as a time of increased exploration and commitment. The semi-structured interview was designed to gather evidence of exploration and commitment in six domains: occupation, religion, politics, friendships, dating, and sex roles. Family relationship was not one of the domains in the Ego Identity Interview. Family should be included as one of the domains to be measured because it plays a big role in an...
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