A Dialectical Approach to Theoretical Integration in Developmental–Contextual Identity Research

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Abstract

Future advances in identity research will depend on integration across major theoretical traditions. Developmental–contextualism has established essential criteria to guide this effort, including specifying the context of identity development, its timing over the life course, and its content. This article assesses 4 major traditions of identity research—identity status, eudaimonic identity, sociocultural theory, and narrative identity—in light of these criteria, and describes the contribution of each tradition to the broader enterprise of developmental–contextual research. This article proposes dialectical integration of the 4 traditions, for the purpose of generating new questions when the tensions and contradictions among theoretical traditions are acknowledged. We provide examples from existing literature of the kinds of research that could address these questions and consider ways of addressing the validity issues involved in developmental–contextual identity research.

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