The Shapes of Commitment Development in Emerging Adulthood

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Based on a model developed by Kunnen et al. (in: Nurmi (ed) Navigating through adolescence: European perspectives, 2001), we investigated trajectories of commitment development in university students and their relation with well-being, identity style, coping, personality, and ego-development. By means of cluster analysis on individual trajectories, we distinguished different clusters of trajectories in six domains of life. Almost all clusters could be classified according to the identity status theory, either on a moratorium-achieved trajectory (MAMA), or as a stable trajectory in one of the four identity statuses. As expected, clusters with stable strong commitment had highest levels of well-being, and MAMA clusters had highest levels of ego-development. In general, the condition “having no commitments for a prolonged period” was more strongly related to non-optimal outcomes than the condition “no exploration.” This is surprising, given the important role of exploration in identity development. We suggested that having no commitments may affect—probably temporarily—the coping preferences and personality characteristics. Differences between the domains can be interpreted as effects of different societal demands and the social or non-social nature of the domain.

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