Sociology Index

Identity Crisis

Erik H. Erikson coined the term Identity Crisis to describe the uncertainty, and even anxiety, that adolescents may feel as they recognize that they are no longer children and become puzzled and confused about their present and future roles in life. Erik Erikson coined the term Identity Crisis to explain failure to achieve ego identity during adolescence during which we undergo physical growth and sexual maturation, and are faced with the problem of integrating our ideas of ourselves and about what others think of us. Erikson assumed that the painful aspects of identity crises occur early in adolescence and are often resolved between the ages of 15 and 18.

Resolution of “identity crisis” depends on one’s progress through previous eight developmental stages through which a healthily developing human should pass from infancy to late adulthood. Advancing through the eight life stages is a function of negotiating his or her biological forces and sociocultural forces.

Identity crisis is compared to existential crisis, a moment at which an individual questions if their life has meaning, purpose, or value. existential crisis may be commonly tied to depression or inevitably negative speculations on purpose in life. This issue of the meaning and purpose of human existence is a major focus of the philosophical tradition of existentialism. Identity crisis also emerges due to sudden status change.

Identity Crisis Signs:
Questioning traits that influence self-perception.
Questioning the very existence and purpose in life.
Altering values or inclinations frequently to match your environment or relationship.

Erikson's interest in identity started in childhood. His studies of cultural life among the Yurok of northern California and the Sioux of South Dakota helped formalize his ideas about identity development and identity crisis. He described adolescents going through an identity crisis as those exhibiting confusion. Identity crisis is an internal conflict of identity and also the crisis of search for identity. Adolescence is a period of intense, self-analysis to seek ways to understand himself or herself Adolescents ask many questions about themselves during identity crisis, a time of intensive analysis and exploration of different ways of looking at oneself. Parenting clearly affects how adolescents experience and manage the identity crisis.

Individuals who feel alienated from parents often remain diffuse and experience serious adjustment problems, whereas those who feel close to controlling parents often simply foreclose on identities that parents suggest or dictate to them and that may prove unsatisfying. The stage of psychosocial development in which identity crisis may occur is called the identity cohesion vs. role confusion. During this stage, adolescents are faced with physical growth, sexual maturity, and integrating ideas of themselves and about what others think of them. - (Schultz, 215–216).