A Longitudinal Integration of Identity Styles and Educational Identity Processes in Adolescence

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Abstract

Identity formation is a main adolescent psychosocial developmental task. The complex interconnection between different processes that are at the basis of one’s identity is a research and applied intervention priority. In this context, the identity style model focuses on social–cognitive strategies (i.e., informational, normative, and diffuse-avoidant) that individuals can use to deal with identity formation. The 3-factor identity dimensional model examines the interplay between identity processes of commitment, in-depth exploration, and reconsideration of commitment in different life domains. Theoretical integrations between these models have been proposed, but there is a dearth of studies unraveling their longitudinal links in specific identity domains. We addressed this gap by testing in a 3-wave longitudinal study the bidirectional associations between identity styles and educational identity processes measured during 1 academic year. Participants were 1,151 adolescents (58.7% female). Results highlighted that the informational style was related over time to higher levels of educational commitment and in-depth exploration, whereas the diffuse-avoidant style was related to lower levels of commitment and higher levels of reconsideration of commitment. Educational commitment was positively related to the informational and normative styles; in-depth exploration was positively related to the informational style; and reconsideration of commitment was positively related to the diffuse-avoidant style. These relations were not moderated by adolescents’ gender and age. Hence, identity styles and educational identity processes reinforce each other during 1 academic year. Theoretical integrations between these models, suggestions for integration with other identity approaches (e.g., narrative identity models), and practical implications are discussed.

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