Social Identity

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The theory of identity development has many different psychological viewpoints. Identity theorists believed that they could create benefits to the world through their study of identity development (Bosma, 1994). Today, Erikson’s (1963) theory remains one of the primary sources for identity development studies. Erikson believed that a person’s identity developed over time through many stages (Erikson, 1950). Erikson’s series of stages developed and built on each other (Erikson, 1963). This series of eight stages followed the epigenetic principle, building on one another and taking a piece of one stage to the next stage (Erikson, 1963). The incendiary stage that explodes the development of Erikson’s identity is Identity versus Identity Confusion (Erikson, 1963). However, the root of identity takes hold during the Trust versus Mistrust stage and grows until death. However, identity is first dealt with in the Identity versus Identity Confusion stage (Erikson, 1963). In the Identity versus Identity Confusion stage, a person first begins to question their true identity. According to Erikson, through this stage adolescents learn to deal with the effects of social conformity, as well as peer relationships in the face of their emerging uniqueness. In this stage, people view themselves as if they are unique beings, with important interpersonal relationships (Erikson, 1963). In the Identity versus Identity Confusion stage a person gives up certain ideas he or she has accepted in the past and takes on new, novel ideas (Erikson, 1963). The basic strength gained in identity development is fidelity. Fidelity is a belief of a certain view of the future (Erikson, 1982). This also includes the creation of a self-controlled perimeter within views of religion, society, and politics. In order to truly understand the concept of self in relation to religion, society, and politics a person must have the ability to make meaningful exchanges of ideas.

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Theoretically the interpersonal communication influences a person’s identity development. This exchange of ideas between people allows individuals to view perspectives other than their own. The fact that a person can reflect the self back to another like mirror allows the individual to see the self and new perspectives. Through these free exchanges of ideas a person has more choices to add to his or her view of self.

Erikson’s (1975) view of defiance is a view that a person in the middle of an identity crisis will adopt any view that is opposing social norms. Many times he or she adopts certain views just because they reject social norms. Defiance is beneficial in identity development because it opens up a person’s perspective to view normally unacceptable concepts. The person then integrates these concepts into their identity.

On the other hand the antipathic aspect of fidelity, Erikson (1982) theorized about is role repudiation. This concept can be expressed overtly in the form of diffidence. Diffidence is a lack of self-confidence that manifests itself in trouble with verbally expressing oneself. Erikson’s theory of diffidence implies that communication in any form, but especially interpersonal, affects identity development (Erikson, 1982). Therefore, lack of communication may lead to a lack of crisis in the Identity versus Identity Confusion stage. Thus leading to what Marcia (1966) labeled, diffusion.

Psychologists, such as Marcia continued the search for identity beyond Erikson’s stages of ego development (Marcia, 1966). By dividing identity into four sections, diffusion, foreclosure, moratorium, and achievement, Marcia operationalized Erikson’s theory (Erikson, 1950, Marcia, 1966). Diffusion is where a person has no crisis, a searching of self, or commitment, a secure decision. Foreclosure is all commitment, but no crisis. Moratorium occurs Identity 4

when a person has crisis, but no commitment. An achieved person has crisis, but is committed to their secure decision.
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