Academic journal article Child Study Journal

The Roles of Ethnic and Ideological Identity in Predicting Fidelity in African American and European American Adolescents

Academic journal article Child Study Journal

The Roles of Ethnic and Ideological Identity in Predicting Fidelity in African American and European American Adolescents

Article excerpt

This longitudinal study constituted an examination of Erik Erikson's proposition that advanced identity formation should facilitate the ascendance of the ego strength of fidelity. Differing hypotheses were generated, according to ethnicity, for the associations between ethnic and ideological identity and between identity and fidelity. Forth-nine African American and 27 European American high school students from rural, low income backgrounds completed the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure and the Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status, and one year later completed the Psychosocial Inventory of Ego Strengths to assess fidelity. Correlational analysis revealed a positive and significant relation between ethnic and ideological forms of identity for the African American participants, but not for European Americans. Utilizing standard multiple regression, the dependent variable of fidelity was shown to be predicted by ethnic identity for the African American participants. Neither form of identity predicted fidelity for the European American participants. Implications for future research are given.

Erikson's psychosocial theory has endured as an approach for the study of adolescent identity formation. A lesser known component of this theory is ego strength, which has been conceptualized as an indicator of adjustment that indicate healthy psychosocial development (Erikson, 1964, 1985). Eight strengths are thought to exist as components of the ego, with each strength attaining ascendance upon successful completion of the associated psychosocial stage. Fidelity, defined as the ability to exhibit loyalty and commitment, is the ego strength of identity formation (Erikson, 1964). Little empirical investigation of the identity-fidelity connection has occurred and, of studies on this topic, samples have been predominately white, middle class college students. The purpose of the present investigation, therefore, was to predict fidelity according to ethnic and ideological identity formation between African American and European American high school students from rural, low income backgrounds. A second topic of interest was the nature of the relation between ethnic and ideological identity for the two ethnic groups. Two models are proposed to approach the assessment of the relations between two forms of identity and fidelity.

Ego Strengths

Erik Erikson's psychosocial theory is a widely-known conceptualization of eight stages of life span human development. Each psychosocial stage has a corresponding ego strength, specifically, hope, from trust, will from autonomy, purpose from initiative, competence from industry, fidelity from identity, love from intimacy, care from generativity, and wisdom from integrity (Erikson, 1964, 1985). All of the ego strengths are thought to be present throughout the life span, but each has the potential for ascendance, including full incorporation into the personality, with successful resolution of the associated psychosocial crisis. Physiological, cognitive, and emotional preparedness, as well as germane social conditions are other contributing factors to the emergence of ego strengths (Erikson, 1964, 1965). Each ego strength attains new meaning with ascendance, and earlier ego strengths are redefined according to the augmentation of the latest ego strength. Successful resolution of prior psychosocial crises and em ergence of their associated ego strengths are conducive to the ascendance of later ego strengths (Erikson, 1985).

Fidelity in Relation to Identity

The target of the present study is the ego strength of fidelity which corresponds to adolescent identity formation. The individual who successfully accomplishes the task of identity formation departs from this stage with a secure, integrated sense of self. There is an awareness of the self's sameness and continuity in respect to the past, present, and future. As well, the social community of the adolescent is affirming and accepting of the newly defined self. …

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