Validating a Centrality Model of Self-Identity

By Pedersen, Darhl M. | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, January 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Validating a Centrality Model of Self-Identity


Pedersen, Darhl M., Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


An earlier investigation of the centrality of attributes of self-identity led to a four-factor model. The four factors of self-identity which varied according to their centrality and which were measured by the Who Am I? Scale were Spiritual, Personal/Social, Family, and Identifications (outward and physical). This study was directed toward further validation of the model. Three grouping variables-gender, marital status, and church attendance-were examined according to their relationship to profiles representing the centrality of the four factors. 226 participants from three diverse universities were studied. Profile analyses yielded no significant gender differences in the centrality profiles. However, there were significant differences relative to marital status and amount of church attendance. Married people had identities that were higher in Family and lower in Personal/Social and Identifications. And church attendance was directly related to the centrality of Spiritual identity and inversely related to the centrality of Personal/Social and Identification identities.

Self, self-identity, and self-concept are virtually synonymous terms. The self has been a fundamental concept in psychoanalytic (Freud, 1963), phenomenological (Rogers, 1959; Maslow, 1970) and trait (Allport, 1961) theories. These terms generally refer to the total set of perceptions one has of who one is as a distinct person. Self-identity will be the term selected for that concept in this paper. Some other terms that describe the self are self-esteem or self-evaluation. These refer to the value judgement placed on the self by a person in terms of how good one perceives oneself to be.

Studies of self-identity have usually employed reactive measures. In this type of measure, people have been asked to describe themselves using dimensions selected by the researcher according to some theoretical orientation. To elicit a response, reactive measures have used statements (Coopersmith, 1967), adjective checklists (Gough & Heilbrun, 1965), or semantic differential scales (Sherwood, 1965; Soares & Soares, 1969). This approach has yielded nomothetic measures which have permitted both inter-individual and intergroup comparisons to be made. However, they have not captured the idiosyncratic richness of an individual's selfidentity.

Allport (1961) stated that the self is the answer to the question "Who are you?" This question may be posed to people to elicit their unique concept of self. This view of self has been referred to as the phenomenal self (McGuire & McGuire, 1988). In phenomenal self measurement, researchers have generally used an openended measurement approach (Bugental & Zelen, 1950; Kuhn & McPartland, 1954; Kelly, 1955). Respondents have been asked to use their own words to describe themselves. This approach has yielded idiographic measurement. The uniqueness of an individual's self-identity was obtained. However, the main disadvantage of this type of measurement was that comparisons across individuals and groups were difficult to make.

Not all aspects of the self are equally central in defining who one is. For example, age is likely to be less important than personal traits in determining who one is. Markus found that contextual factors influence self-identity (Nurius & Markus, 1990) and that salience (cognitive centrality) affects how information about oneself is processed (Gurin & Markus, 1988). Furthermore, it has been shown that the centrality of an attribute of the self can be a function of social context (McGuire & McGuire, 1988).

According to personality theory, people share personality traits and personal constructs which are produced by common experiences within a culture (Cattell, 1957; Allport, 1961; Kelly,1963). In a similar manner, it is likely that there are elements of one's self-identity that are shared, as well as elements that are unique.

Theory and research involving self-identity have given little attention to explicitly identifying the relative centrality of various aspects of the self.

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