Sources of Self-Identity among Turkish Adolescents

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

As part of the International Self-Identity Research Project, this study explored sources of identity among Turkish adolescents. The interview sample consisted of three male and three female high school students in Ankara, Turkey. The results indicated that social, familial, personal, physical, and moral-ethical dimensions contributed to adolescents' definitions of self, but to different degrees. Social and familial dimensions were very influential and were used as reference points for defining self in other areas. Physical and personal aspects of identity were also apparent, but were not as salient as social and familial dimensions. Patriotism and religion played a role in moral-ethical identity. Overall, self-identity influenced emotional state, cognitive and behavioral functioning, and social relations to a significant degree.

Erikson (1968) and others have noted the importance of self-identity. Context, such as the cultural and social environment, greatly influences identity development. During adolescence, the complexity of this process increases, and not all are successful in achieving positive outcomes. For example, according to Miller (1987) some adolescents develop a false self (or "masked view of self") because they simply copy others' behaviors.

Ishiyama (1989) provides a useful framework for investigating self-identity. According to Ishiyama, identity is multidimensional, involving social, physical, familial, personal, and moral-ethical elements. However, these dimensions should not be considered mutually exclusive. A problem in one realm may cause disturbances elsewhere.

Adolescents often experience stress and disorientation in the process of identity formation, which may affect their sense of self-worth. It is therefore important for parents, teachers, counselors, and others to understand the sources of self-identity among adolescents. The present study was part of the International Self-Identity Research Project, which was designed to investigate self-validation and identity processes in adolescents from a variety of cultures. Specifically, the sources of self-identity among Turkish adolescents were explored.

METHOD

An interview schedule designed for the International Self-Identity Research Project was used to collect data. It consisted of questions on hypothetical situations, what adolescents like and do not like about themselves, perceptions of their gender, age, past and future, friendships, family relations, politics and religion, lifestyle, others' evaluations, physical development, meaning of life, worldview, most valued possessions, and activities. Information on personal, social, physical, familial, and moral-ethical aspects of adolescents' lives was thus obtained.

The interview schedule was translated from English into Turkish by the researchers. Some changes were made to ensure that the questions were appropriate for the Turkish culture. The interview schedule was pilot tested on two adolescents to confirm content coverage, clarity, and time requirements. As a result, several questions were revised to enhance clarity.

The sample consisted of three males and three females, ages 15 to 16, from four public high schools (two general and two vocational) in Ankara. These represented the two most common types of high schools in Turkey. The interviewees were randomly selected by the contact person at each school. The purpose of the study was briefly explained to the students, and they were informed that participation was voluntary.

Interviews were carried out individually in one session. They were conducted in a school office where the researcher and student could talk privately, and were tape-recorded with the permission of the student. The interviews lasted an average of 1.5 hours each, producing a total of 145 transcribed pages of data. Background information and interviewer notes were other sources of data. …