Identity vs. Role Confusion

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In today’s Western society, self-identity and social roles are important dimensions that are at times challenging to face. Social roles have always been a fundamental part of society and yet as time goes on, it seems to be increasingly difficult to understand. As discussed in class, in the medieval period, people were assigned roles based on family status. In modern days, however, societal roles have expanded and opportunities are endless, which raises the question: Is there more uncertainty about identity in modern society?

In entering adolescence, people heavily contemplate their ego identity. In the early 1900s, theorist Erik Erikson believed in eight stages of ego development from birth to death. For the purpose of this paper I have chosen to focus on the fifth stage: identity vs. role confusion. Erikson believed that young adults are meant to go through a phase called psychosocial moratorium, which is the exploration with different roles and opportunities. He also coined the term ‘ego crisis’ and believed that it was one of the most important conflicts people face in development. Ego crisis refers to the confusion between different roles, leading to prolonged moratorium, and intensified search and impulsive actions. In forming an identity, people achieve it by arriving at a sense of sameness and continuity.

In parallel to Erikson’s beliefs, researcher James Marcia also refers to moratorium and identity achievement. However, Marcia expands on Erikson’s initial theory by identifying two additional identity statuses. The first, foreclosure, refers to a person who has made a commitment without attempting identity exploration. The second status refers to identity diffusion, which occurs when there is neither an identity crisis nor a commitment. Marcia concluded that those who have made a strong commitment to an identity tend to be happier and healthier than those who have not. Those with a status of identity diffusion tend to feel out of place in the world...
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