teenage children going through these sorts of phases, much of this behavior is normal experimentationimportant prelude to establishing a coherent sense of identity. But role experimentation can take place only in an environment that allows and encourages it (Côté, 2009). Without a moratorium, a full and thorough exploration of the options and available alternatives cannot occur, and identity development will be impeded.According to Erikson, adolescents must grow into an adult identity, rather than be forced into one prematurely.the sort of moratorium Erikson described is an ideal; indeed, some might even consider it to be a luxury of theaffluent. Many young people— perhaps even most—do not have the economic freedom to enjoy a long delay before taking on the responsibilities of adult life.
For many youngsters, alternatives do not exist in any realistic sense, and introspection only interferes with themore pressing task of survival. Does the 17-year-old who has to drop out of school to work a full-time job go through life without a sense of identity? Do youngsters who cannot afford a psychosocial moratorium fail to resolve the identity crisis? No. But from Erikson’s perspective, the absence of a psychosocial moratorium insome adolescents’ lives—either because of restrictions they place on themselves, restrictions placed on them by others, or their life circumstances—is truly regrettable.The price these youngsters pay is not the failure to develop a sense of identity but lost potential. You may know people whose parents forced them into prematurely choosing a certain career or who had to drop out of college and take a job they really did not want because of financial pressures. Without a chance toexplore, to experiment, and to choose among options for the future, these adolescents may not realize all that they are capable of becoming. It is easy to see how the broader context in which adolescents grow up affects this.C.Resolving the Identity CrisisIs establishing a sense of identity something that is conscious?According to Erikson, it is. It is experienced as a sense of well-being, a feeling of “being at home in one’s body,” a sense of knowing where one is going, and an inner assuredness of recognition from those who count. It is a sense of sameness through time—a feeling of continuity between the past and the future.Establishing a coherent sense of identity takes a long time.Most writers on adolescence and youth believe that identity exploration continues well into young adulthood. But rather than thinking of the adolescent as going through a single identity crisis, it probably makes more sense to view the phenomenon as a series of crises that may concern different aspects of the young person’s identity and that may surface—and resurface—at different points in time throughout the adolescent and young-adult years.
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- Winter '15
- Developmental Psychology, Erik Erikson, Harter, identity development