Erikson considered development of a stable identity to be the primary developmental task of adolescents and viewed adolescence as a period of “psychosocial moratorium” during which an individual experiments with different roles before choosing one. James Marcia distinguished four identity states or patterns that characterize adolescence:

1. Identity diffusion: The adolescent has not yet experienced an identity crisis, explored alternatives, or committed to an identity.

2. Identity foreclosure: When an adolescent has not experienced a crisis, but has adopted an identity (occupation, ideology) imposed by others, identity foreclosure has occurred.

3. Identity moratorium: A period marked by confusion, discontent, and rebellion, identity moratorium occurs when an adolescent experiences an identity crisis and is actively exploring alternative identities.

4. Identity achieved: The identity crisis has been resolved by evaluation of alternatives and commitment to an identity.

Stanley Hall (1904) identified adolescence as a period of “storm and stress” involving emotional maladjustment and instability. Research has not ruled this out. About 10-20% percent of adolescents experience distress, a rate similar to the adult population. More likely to experience depression, drug use and delinquency or to attempt suicide than preteens, adolescents do experience great life changes. Parents who provide their teens with support and reassurance while allowing them to establish their own views promote the strongest sense of personal identity. Egocentrism reemerges during the teen years and involves confusion about personal thoughts and the thoughts of others. Such egocentrism is generally manifested in two phenomena:

1. Accounting for their acute sense of self-consciousness, adolescents frequently feel that they are onstage. An example of this is a teenage girl who imagines that everyone is staring at the pimple on her nose.

2. A strong belief in the uniqueness of one’s own experiences, the personal fable leads to a sense of immortality.

We are here to help! Click here to book an appointment.