Identity Status Formulae: Generating Continuous Measures of the Identity Statuses from Measures of Exploration and Commitment

By Schwartz, Seth J.; Dunham, Richard M. | Adolescence, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

Identity Status Formulae: Generating Continuous Measures of the Identity Statuses from Measures of Exploration and Commitment


Schwartz, Seth J., Dunham, Richard M., Adolescence


ABSTRACT

Mathematical formulae were devised for the purpose of generating continuous measures of the four identity statuses from measures of exploration and commitment. The formulae were consistent with the conceptual definitions of the statuses. They were found to be effective both in terms of generating continuous measures of the statuses and in terms of deriving status assignments.

During the last thirty years, identity formation has been a worthy focus of considerable theoretical and empirical research. In 1993, Marcia estimated that more than 300 studies had been published on identity. Most of this research drew on the formulation that Marcia (1966) derived from the work of Erikson (1950). This formulation is quite parsimonious and has been shown to possess adequate construct validity (Waterman, 1988).

Marcia extracted two principal dimensions from Erikson's work, exploration and commitment. Exploration signifies the search for a more complete sense of self. Commitment is the act of deciding on a particular set of goals, values, and beliefs to which one will adhere.

Traditionally, exploration and commitment have each been bifurcated into high and low levels, with the median score on each serving as the dividing point. Marcia derived four identity statuses by juxtaposing each level of exploration with each level of commitment. These statuses are achievement, moratorium, foreclosure, and diffusion.

Achievement represents high levels of both exploration and commitment. It is the state of having committed to specific identity elements following a period of exploration. Achieved individuals tend to be balanced thinkers (Marcia, 1980) and to be willing to explore further if the situation requires it (Stephen, Fraser, & Marcia, 1992).

Moratorium is the state of active exploration without much commitment. In developmental terms, it usually precedes the achieved status (Waterman, 1988). Individuals in moratorium tend to be anxious and depressed (Kidwell, Dunham, Bacho, Pastorino, & Portes, 1995), and they have been shown to display more creative thought than do those in the other statuses (Berman, Schwartz, Kurtines, & Berman, 2000).

Foreclosure represents a commitment formed without adequate prior exploration. This commitment often stems from the expectations of parents or other significant figures in the individual's life. Foreclosure may be associated with smug self-satisfaction (Marcia, 1980) and authoritarianism (Marcia, 1967).

Diffusion is the relative absence of exploration and commitment. Diffused individuals are often apathetic and disinterested (Marcia, 1980). They may also be especially prone to academic difficulties (Berzonsky, 1985).

Formulae are provided here for calculating continuous measures of the four basic identity statuses from continuous measures of exploration and commitment. Tests of the effectiveness of the derived identity measures were accomplished by: (a) comparing two relationships, namely that between those derived continuous measures and an independent measure with that between existing continuous measures of identity status and the same independent measure; and (b) comparing categorization data based on the use of the formulae with data using more usual methods of categorization, on a single instrument.

Classification of Instruments that Assess Identity Status

There are two general forms of identity measures, called here direct (designed to measure identity status directly) and derived (identity status is derived from measures of exploration and commitment). In addition, there are two types of identity status scaling, categorical and continuous. Table 1 presents several instruments classified by mode of assessment and type of scaling. There have been no derived continuous identity measures.

Categorical measures of identity status are commonly used. They lend themselves to statistical analyses that are less powerful than those that are possible with continuous measures. …

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