Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Adolescence (12–18)

What role does identity development have during adolescence?

Erikson considered adolescence to be a critical time for identity development. For the first time in their lives, adolescents are challenged to develop a view of themselves that is separate from their relationship with their parents. They can no longer simply see themselves as somebody’s child. They will have to find a role within adult society, which is no simple task in our complex, modern society. Moreover, adolescents’ cognitive development allows them to understand abstract notions of values and of religious and political beliefs. The beliefs they endorse become an important part of their identity.

This process of identity formation also relates to an excessive concern with peer acceptance. When one’s identity is in flux, the reactions of other people become that much more important. In other words, people who are unsure of their own identity tend to give their peers more power to define who they are, while those with a stable self-identity are less easily influenced by the opinions of others.


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