The Relationship Between Conflict and Identity

The term’ identity crisis’ has become common in everyday speech, almost to the point of being cliché, so many people grasp what it denotes and what its connotations are. However, you may be ignorant of its full psychological meaning, its origin, or even why people experience it in the first place. 

Vaguely, it is a feeling of disconnection between yourself and your place in society. Still, there is so much more to it than that. 

How To Define an Identity Crisis 

German psychologist Erik Erikson was the first to use the term ‘identity crisis.’ He used it to argue how pivotal forming an identity is to determine the entire course of an individual’s life. Erikson defined an identity crisis as a prolonged phase of intense self-scrutiny and when an individual examines themself from several different angles. 

This definition reflected Erikson’s own experiences, having been raised a Jew in Germany while appearing Scandinavian, which created a crisis for him in struggling to define himself. Read more on Erikson’s theories here. 

What Is an Identity Status? 

James Marcia expanded on Erikson’s work by suggesting that the crisis often manifests after we settle on a chosen identity. Marcia then went on to devise a means of determining an individual’s identity state by outlining the four main identity statuses, which are as follows:

Moratorium – An individual in the throes of exploring different potential identities and is yet to commit to one. 

Identity Diffusion – When one feels out of place with the entire world, so much so that they don’t even explore different identity potentials. 

Identity Achievement – An individual who has settled on one identity after exploring several. 

Foreclosure – An individual who has settled on their identity without first exploring alternatives. 

What Causes an Identity Crisis? 

According to Erikson’s writings, an identity crisis is often triggered during the teenage years when an individual is at the crossroads between identity and role. However, an identity crisis could also be caused by things that happened to an individual during childhood. 

Change is the most common cause of an identity crisis. This could include new relationships, a death, moving to a new house, or having gone through something traumatic.

What Are the Symptoms? 

If a child is going through a troubling time, it could greatly help the child to have a quiet discussion. If the child is experiencing a phase of prolonged confusion, they may be experiencing an identity crisis, particularly if they’re finding themselves questioning what role they play in life or if they’re perpetually trying to identify their beliefs, passions, or values. 

Concluding Thoughts

Having an identity crisis, as Erikson theorized, is a pivotal and common aspect of growing up, and it is prevalent amongst high school children. Please be aware and look out for the symptoms and help where you can.

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