Identity Formation of United States American and Asian Indian Adolescents

Article excerpt

According to Eriksonian and neo-Eriksonian theory (e.g., Marcia, 1980), identity formation among youth often requires that they explore a range of life choices about interpersonal and ideological domains before they make commitments. Erikson (1980) proposed a developmental pattern in that individuals in late adolescence are able to conceive a clearer sense of their identity than those in early adolescence. Indicators of successful resolution of these explorations are reflected in the individual's high level of comfort with self, a sense of direction in life, a feeling of sameness and continuity of the self, and confidence that significant others value and support the self (Erikson, 1980).

Recent research (e.g., Cote & Levine, 2002; Schwartz, 2005) suggests that the identity development model of Erikson should be modified to a postmodern identity which is composed of diverse elements that do not always yield a unified self. This view has particular significance when examining identity development across cultures (Kroger, 2007). Thus, identity is conceptualized as resulting from cultural possibilities and limitations available to individuals within a given context. For example, adolescents around the world may develop a bi-cultural identity with one part of their identity rooted in their local culture while another part stems from their awareness of their relations to the global culture. Historically, most cultures emphasized more of interdependent rather than independent views of the self. Thus, Erikson's views of the importance of identity development issues in adolescence may apply more to Western societies than to adolescents in more traditional cultures.

Identity has become an important area of study in late modern society. A coherent sense of identity supported by agency and self-direction is required to be successful in one's occupational and social life in the United States and other unstructured western societies (Cote & Levine, 2002). Some researchers (e.g., Kroger, 2007) have argued that adolescent identity formation may yield different patterns across cultural contexts. In Western societies, adolescents are often granted greater latitude in exploring life choices in ideology, occupations, and social relationships. In non-Western and more traditional cultures, adolescents are often restricted in their choices of potential mates by their parents, and the range of occupational choices may be unavailable for exploration. In the United States, psychosocial moratorium is a more acceptable identity status for ideological domains than it might be in a more traditional culture where adolescents are expected to believe what their parents teach them.

According to Kroger (2003), gender differences in identity formation have diminished in Western cultures. However, Marcia, 1994, contends that differences remain especially with regard to occupational exploration. According to Marcia (1994), female adolescents often have more difficulty integrating their aspirations for love with their aspirations for careers. Consequently, intimacy for females is a higher priority than identity whereas for males identity is a higher priority than intimacy. Lucas (1997) examined similarities and differences between adolescent males and females regarding identity development, career development, and psychological separation from parents. Among females in the study, identity commitment was negatively and incrementally predicted by attitudinal independence. Males who were more emotionally independent from their parents were more likely to be in the exploratory stage of identity, whereas those who were emotionally dependent upon their parents were less likely to be identity achieved. Kroger, 2007, has indicated that both connectedness and independence are often seen in both males and females due less to biological sex differences and more to cultural differences in gender-role socialization.

Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine adolescent identity formation in two cultures, the United States and India. …