Identity/Identity Formation (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
A person's mental representation of who he or she is.
Components of identity include a sense of personal continuity and of uniqueness from other people. In addition to carving out a personal identity based on the need for uniqueness, people also acquire a social identity based on their membership in various groupsamilial, ethnic, occupational, and others. These group identities, in addition to satisfying the need for affiliation, help people define themselves in the eyes of both others and themselves.
Identity formation has been most extensively described by Erik Erikson in his theory of developmental stages, which extends from birth through adulthood. According to Erikson, identity formation, while beginning in childhood, gains prominence during adolescence. Faced with physical growth, sexual maturation, and impending career choices, adolescents must accomplish the task of integrating their prior experiences and characteristics into a stable identity. Erikson coined the phrase identity crisis to describe the temporary instability and confusion adolescents experience as they struggle with alternatives and choices. To cope with the uncertainties of this stage, adolescents may overidentify with heroes and mentors, fall in love, and bond together in cliques, excluding others on the basis of real...
(The entire section is 553 words.)
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