Adolescent Development: Erik Erickson

Adolescence is a stage of life where an individual goes through various changes in self. Children are typically not considered mentally competent enough to make responsible decisions before adolescence; a few years later, they must make several crucial choices. Adolescents also need to focus on developing good social skills. Much current research is being done on adolescent self−concept, self−esteem, and identity formation covering a wide variety of "self." Adolescents who fail to build good social interactions are denied an essential avenue for autonomous decision−making and may also develop a major identity crisis.

Erickson Psycho-Social Theory

Erickson has given the psycho−social theory of development, where he explains the development of an individual's personality at different stages of life. He suggested that people are driven to become competent in a variety of different phases of life. In his theory, Erikson outlined how our social interactions throughout our lives shape our personalities. He listed eight stages of psycho−social growth in his theory. An individual goes through a psychological crisis at each level, which can have either positive or negative results. During a crisis, a person might succeed or fail by reaching their full potential.

Identity Formation during Adolescent

Erikson thought that developing one's identity is the main psychological job of adolescence. He referred to this struggle between identity and role as the developmental conflict. A variety of variables influence the development of identity, and puberty throughout adolescence results in the development of new cognitive and physical skills. Erikson would state that identity is developed when the person can evaluate their characteristics and link them with venues for expression present in their surroundings. However, role confusion happens when someone cannot handle this developmental responsibility.

Adolescent Development: The Five Types

An intensive research program has discovered five psychological kinds for the adolescent stage of development. These include identity achievement, alienated achievement, moratorium, foreclosure, and identity diffusion. We will understand each stage in detail.

Identity Achievement 

Adolescents who are dedicated to their career and ideological choices are those who are considered to have achieved identity. A positive correlation was found between achieved identity status and objective measures of commitment in a study of college students. These students had solidified their ego identities. They could adapt to shifting environmental demands because they were resilient, focused on attainable goals, and stable. Compared to teenagers who were confused about their roles, they excelled at challenging activities. These well−behaved teenagers chose more challenging college majors, gravitating toward engineering and physical sciences courses. It was discovered that male and female youths who attained their identification status earlier in adolescence were more likely to have a dependable, committed relationship by the time they were in their twenties. Therefore, during adolescents, identity achievement plays a very crucial role. Additionally, it was discovered that adolescents who gave guidance and control in a loving and caring manner were more likely to develop a sense of identity than adolescents with parents who were either too permissive or authoritarian.


The second adolescent status, moratorium, refers to those still going through an identity crisis. Their devotion to their professions and ideologies is not clear. They have conflicted feelings about authority figures, rebelling against them and depending on them for guidance. They have a wide variety of behavior, from passive to energetic and inventive, and they have high anxiety levels. They also have a propensity for daydreaming, holding onto supernatural beliefs, and engaging in juvenile behavior. They are confused about themselves and are unable to develop a stable identity.


Adolescents who have not yet gone through an identity crisis but show dedication to a profession or an idea are described as a foreclosure. These obligations, however, are frequently made for them by their parents rather than by the teenagers themselves. These young people frequently exhibit rigidity and authoritarianism and struggle to adapt to change. Those in foreclosure are frequently goal−oriented, yet they direct their efforts more toward external than interior objectives. These adolescents do not like to explore much and are more inclined toward being in one profession. They have not entered the exploration stage and also do not face any identity crisis at the same time.

Identity Diffusion 

People with no ideological or occupational convictions during adolescence and who may not have gone through an identity crisis are said to have an identity diffusion status. In the extreme, their lifestyle choice may lead to aimless drifting and wandering, as did Erikson in his late teens, who intentionally rejects any form of commitment. These teenagers regard their parents as uncaring and rejecting, and as a result, they have a distant relationship with them.

Alienated Achievement 

The fifth and final status, alienated achievement, is used to characterize teenagers who have had an identity crisis, have no career aspirations, and hold onto anti−social and anti−economical attitudes. Any employment involving them in the system they reject is out of the question due to their extreme adherence to this justification. They are typically analytical, philosophical, and cynical, while they are students.


According to Erikson, adolescence is when identity typically becomes the focus of attention. According to research, the greatest significant advancements in identity development appear to occur during the college years. Significant benefits are anticipated as college students make crucial decisions regarding their future careers, friendships, romantic relationships, and religious or political beliefs. Thus, identity crisis also seems to occur mostly at this stage of life. However, one must progressively resolve these issues and progress towards further developmental stages.

Updated on: 05-Apr-2023


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