7.4: Psychosocial Development in Adolescence (2023)

  1. Last updated
  2. Save as PDF
  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}}}\) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    Erikson: Identity vs. Role Confusion

    Erikson believed that the primary psychosocial task of adolescence was establishing an identity. Teens struggle with the question “Who am I?” This includes questions regarding their appearance, vocational choices and career aspirations, education, relationships, sexuality, political and social views, personality, and interests. Erikson saw this as a period of confusion and experimentation regarding identity and one’s life path. Those who are unsuccessful at resolving this stage may either withdraw further into social isolation or become "lost in the crowd," as the saying goes. However, more recent research, suggests that few leave this age period with identity achievement, and that most identity formation occurs during young adulthood (Côtè, 2006).

    Identity Statuses

    Expanding on Erikson’s theory, James Marcia (2010) identified four identity statuses that represent the four possible combinations of the dimensions of commitment and exploration (see Table below).

    Commitment to an Identity





    Identity Diffusion

    Identity Moratorium


    Identity Foreclosure

    Identity Achievement

    The least mature status, and one common in many children, is identity diffusion. Identity diffusion is a status that characterizes those who have neither explored the options, nor made a commitment to an identity. Those who persist in this identity may drift aimlessly with little connection to those around them or have little sense of purpose in life.

    (Video) Physical development in adolescence | Behavior | MCAT | Khan Academy

    Those in identity foreclosure have made a commitment to an identity without having explored the options. Some parents/caregivers may make these decisions for their children and do not grant the teen the opportunity to make choices. In other instances, teens may strongly identify with parents/caregivers and others in their life and wish to follow in their footsteps.

    Identity moratorium is a status that describes those who are activity exploring in an attempt to establish an identity, but have yet to have made any commitment. This can be an anxious and emotionally tense time period as the adolescent experiments with different roles and explores various beliefs. Nothing is certain and there are many questions, but few answers.

    Identity achievement refers to those who, after exploration, have made a commitment. This is a long process and is not often achieved by the end of adolescence.

    During high school and the college years, teens and young adults generally move from identity diffusion and foreclosure toward moratorium and achievement. The biggest gains in the development of identity appear to be in college, as college students are exposed to a greater variety of career choices, lifestyles, and beliefs. However, not everyone has access to resources that help them attend college and many people seem to be finding diverse exposure elsewhere such as community activism and online forums. This is likely to spur on questions regarding identity. A great deal of the identity work we do in adolescence and young adulthood is about values and goals, as we strive to articulate a personal vision or dream for what we hope to accomplish in the future (McAdams, 2013).

    Areas of Identity Development

    Developmental psychologists have researched several different areas of identity development and it will be interesting to see how these change or stay the same over time.

    Some of the main areas include:

    • Religious/spiritual identity: The religious/spiritual views of teens are often similar to that of their families (Kim- Spoon, Longo, & McCullough, 2012). Most teens may question specific customs, practices, or ideas in the faith of their parents/caregivers, but few completely reject the religion of their families.
    • Political identity: The political ideology of teens is also influenced by their parents/caregivers political beliefs. A new trend in the 21st century is a decrease in party affiliation among adults. Many adults do not align themselves with either the democratic or republican party, but view themselves as more of an “independent”. Their teenage children are often following suit or become more apolitical (Côtè, 2006).
    • Vocational identity: While adolescents in earlier generations envisioned themselves as working in a particular job, and often worked as an apprentice or part-time in such occupations as teenagers, this is rarely the case today. Vocational identity takes longer to develop, as most of today’s occupations require specific skills and knowledge that will require additional education or are acquired on the job itself. In addition, many of the jobs held by teens are not in occupations that most teens will seek as adults.
    • Gender identity: This is also becoming an increasingly prolonged task as attitudes and views regarding gender keep changing. The roles deemed appropriate for people are evolving (Sinclair & Carlsson, 2013).
    • Ethnic and cultural identity: “The task of ethnic identity formation involves sorting out and resolving positive and negative feelings and attitudes about one’s own ethnic group and about other groups and identifying one’s place in relation to both” (Phinney, 2006). When groups differ in status in a culture, those from the non- dominant group have to be cognizant of the customs and values of those from the dominant culture. This makes ethnic identity less salient for members of the dominant culture. According to the U.S. Census (2012) more than 40% of Americans under the age of 18 are from ethnic minorities. For many ethnic minority teens, discovering one’s ethnic identity is an important part of identity formation.
    (Video) The Adolescent Brain: A second window of opportunity

    Impact of Identity Development

    Adolescents continue to refine their sense of self as they relate to others. Erikson referred to the task of the adolescent as one of identity versus role confusion. Thus, in Erikson’s view, an adolescent’s main questions are “Who am I?” and “Who do I want to be?” Some adolescents adopt the values and roles that their parents/caregivers expect for them. Other teens develop identities that are in opposition to their parents/caregivers but align with a peer group. This is common as peer relationships become a central focus in adolescents’ lives.

    As adolescents work to form their identities, they tend to pull away from their parents/caregivers, and the peer group becomes very important (Shanahan, McHale, Osgood, & Crouter, 2007). Despite spending less time with their parents/caregivers, the current majority of teens report mostly positive feelings toward them (Moore, Guzman, Hair, Lippman, & Garrett, 2004). Warm and healthy parent/caregiver-child relationships have been associated with positive child outcomes, such as better academic strides and fewer behavior challenges in school, in the United States as well as in other countries (Hair et al., 2005).

    (Video) 8 Stages of Development by Erik Erikson

    It appears that most teens don’t actually experience adolescent "storm and stress" to the degree once famously suggested by G. Stanley Hall, a pioneer in the study of adolescent development. Only small numbers of teens have major conflicts with their parents/caregivers, and most disagreements are minor. For example, in a study of over 1,800 parents of adolescents from various cultural and ethnic groups, Barber (1994) found that conflicts occurred over day-to-day issues such as homework, money, curfews, clothing, chores, and friends. These types of arguments tend to decrease as teens develop (Galambos & Almeida, 1992). These finding remain pretty current even today and it will be interesting to see where the research reveals more in future studies.


    Although peers take on greater importance during adolescence, family relationships remain important too. One of the key changes during adolescence involves a renegotiation of parent/caregiver–child relationships. As adolescents strive for more independence and autonomy during this time, different aspects of parenting/caregiving become more salient. For example, parents/caregivers distal supervision and monitoring become more important as adolescents spend more time away from them and in the presence of peers. Parental/caregiver monitoring encompasses a wide range of behaviors such as attempts to set rules and know their adolescents’ friends, activities, and whereabouts, in addition to adolescents’ willingness to disclose information to them (Stattin & Kerr, 2000). Psychological control, which involves manipulation and intrusion into adolescents’ emotional and cognitive world through invalidating adolescents’ feelings and pressuring them to think in particular ways (Barber, 1996), is another aspect of parenting/caregiving that becomes more noticeable during adolescence and is related to more problematic adolescent adjustment.


    As children become adolescents, they usually begin spending more time with their peers and less time with their families, and these peer interactions are increasingly unsupervised by adults. Children’s notions of friendship often focus on shared activities, whereas adolescents’ notions of friendship increasingly focus on intimate exchanges of thoughts and feelings. During adolescence, peer groups evolve from primarily single-sex to mixed-sex. Adolescents within a peer group tend to be similar to one another in behavior and attitudes, which has been explained as being a function of homophily (the tendency for people to have ties with those who are similar to themselves in socially significant ways). One of the most widely studied aspects of adolescent peer influence is known as deviant peer contagion (Dishion & Tipsord, 2011), which is the process by which peers reinforce problem behavior by laughing or showing other signs of approval that then increase the likelihood of future problem behavior.

    (Video) Brain changes during adolescence | Behavior | MCAT | Khan Academy

    Peers can serve both positive and negative functions during adolescence. Negative peer pressure can lead adolescents to make riskier decisions or engage in more problematic behavior than they would alone or in the presence of their family. For example, adolescents are much more likely to drink alcohol, use drugs, and commit crimes when they are with their friends than when they are alone or with their family. However, peers also serve as an important source of social support and companionship during adolescence, and adolescents with positive peer relationships are happier and better adjusted than those who are socially isolated or have conflictual peer relationships.

    Crowds are an emerging level of peer relationships in adolescence. In contrast to friendships (which are reciprocal dyadic relationships) and cliques (which refer to groups of individuals who interact frequently), crowds are characterized more by shared reputations or images than actual interactions (Brown & Larson, 2009). These crowds reflect different prototypic identities (such as "jocks" or "nerds") and are often linked with adolescents’ social status and peers’ perceptions of their values or behaviors.

    Romantic/Intimate Relationships

    Adolescence is the developmental period during which romantic relationships typically first emerge. By the end of adolescence, most American teens have had at least one romantic/intimate relationship (Dolgin, 2011). However, culture does play a role. Dating serves many purposes for teens, including having fun, companionship, status, socialization, sexual experimentation, intimacy, and partner selection for those in late adolescence (Dolgin, 2011).

    There are several stages in the dating process beginning with engaging in mixed-sex group activities in early adolescence (Dolgin, 2011). The same-sex peer groups that were common during childhood expand into mixed-sex peer groups that are more characteristic of adolescence. Romantic/intimate relationships often form in the context of these mixed-sex peer groups (Connolly, Furman, & Konarski, 2000). Interacting in mixed-sex groups is easier for teens as they are among a supportive group of friends, can observe others interacting, and are kept safe from a too early intimate relationship. By middle adolescence teens are often engaging in brief, casual dating or in group dating with established couples (Dolgin, 2011). Then, in late adolescence, dating involves exclusive, intense relationships. These relationships tend to be long-lasting and continue for a year or longer, however, they may also interfere with friendships.

    (Video) Arrested Development: Adolescent Development & Juvenile Justice | Elizabeth Cauffman | TEDxUCIrvine

    Although romantic/intimate relationships during adolescence are often short-lived rather than long-term committed partnerships, their importance should not be minimized. Adolescents spend a great deal of time focused on romantic/intimate relationships, and their positive and negative emotions are more tied to romantic/intimate relationships, or lack thereof, than to friendships, family relationships, or school (Furman & Shaffer, 2003). These relationships contribute to adolescents’ identity formation, changes in family and peer relationships, and emotional and behavioral adjustment. Furthermore, these relationships are centrally connected to adolescents’ emerging sexuality. Parents/caregivers, policymakers, and researchers have devoted a great deal of attention to adolescents’ sexuality, in large part because of concerns related to sexual activity and safe contraception. However, sexuality involves more than this narrow focus. For example, adolescence is often when individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender come to understand and accept themselves as such (Russell, Clarke, & Clary, 2009). Thus, romantic/intimate relationships are a domain in which adolescents experiment with new behaviors and identities in the search to find the authentic self.


    What is the psychosocial development of adolescence? ›

    An adolescent has four tasks to accomplish to become a well-adjusted adult. These tasks are categorized as: 1) independence, 2) body image, 3) peer relations, and 4) identity. Adolescence is divided into three periods; early (ages 12-14), middle (ages 15-17) and late (ages 18-21).

    What is Erikson's 7th stage of psychosocial development? ›

    Generativity versus stagnation is the seventh stage of psychosocial development according to Erik Erikson. In this stage, adults strive to create or nurture things, often through parenting, contributing to the community, or some other positive change.

    How does Erikson's theory apply to adolescence? ›

    According to Erik Erikson, the main task of adolescents is to solve the crisis of identity versus role confusion. Research has shown that a stable and strong sense of identity is associated with better mental health of adolescents.

    What are the 8 stages of psychosocial development in order? ›

    Erikson's 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development, Explained for Parents
    • Trust.
    • Independence.
    • Initiative.
    • Accomplishment.
    • Identity.
    • Relationships.
    • Contribution.
    • Reflection.

    What is an example of psychosocial development? ›

    Psychosocial development involves changes not only in children's overt behavior but also in their social cognition. For example, they become able to take the perspective of others and to understand that other people's behavior is based on their knowledge and desires.

    What are psychosocial problems in adolescence? ›

    Most common disorders include depression and anxiety (internalizing disorders), and delinquency, aggression, educational difficulties, and truancy (externalizing disorders) (2). Adolescence is mainly affected by home and school environments.

    What is Stage 7 in Erikson's theory example? ›

    Examples: In this stage an adult will be concerned with issues such as: the future ofthe environment, what kind of world will we leave the next generation, equalityfor all people, etc.

    Which Eriksonian stage is associated with adolescence? ›

    Identity versus role confusion is the fifth stage of ego in psychologist Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs during adolescence between the ages of approximately 12 and 18. During this stage, adolescents explore their independence and develop a sense of self.

    What are the seven 7 stages of development? ›

    • Infant Development.
    • Toddler Development.
    • Preschooler Development.
    • Middle Childhood Development.
    • Adolescent Development.
    • Adult Development.

    What are the main ideas of Erikson's theory of psychosocial development? ›

    The main idea behind Erikson's theory of psychosocial development is that our personality develops in stages, and at every one of these stages a psychosocial crisis unfolds in a way that determines our personality development based on the outcome.

    What is the main focus of Erikson's psychosocial development? ›

    Erikson's theory postulates that people advance through the stages of development based on how they adjust to social crises throughout their lives. These social crises instruct how individuals react to the surrounding world.

    What are the stages of adolescence? ›

    Adolescence, these years from puberty to adulthood, may be roughly divided into three stages: earlyadolescence, generally ages eleven to fourteen; middleadolescence, ages fifteen to seventeen; and lateadolescence, ages eighteen to twenty-one.

    Who proposed the 8 stages of psychosocial development? ›

    Psychologist Erik Erikson developed his eight stages of development to explain how people mature. The stages clarify the developmental challenges faced at various points in life.

    Who discovered 8 stages of psychosocial development? ›

    Erikson, a psychoanalyst and professor at Harvard, produced what was to become psychology's most popular and influential theory of human development. His model – including eight stages of psychosocial growth – replaced Freud's controversial theory centered on psychosexual development.

    What is the 9th stage of psychosocial development? ›

    During the ninth stage, Erikson argues that the dystonic, or less desirable outcome, comes to take precedence again. For example, an older adult may become mistrustful (trust vs. mistrust), feel more guilt about not having the abilities to do what they once did (initiative vs.

    What are some examples of psychosocial behaviors? ›

    Examples of psychosocial factors include social support, loneliness, marriage status, social disruption, bereavement, work environment, social status, and social integration.

    What is the most important stage of psychosocial development? ›

    The first stage of Erikson's theory of psychosocial development occurs between birth and 1 year of age and is the most fundamental stage in life. Because an infant is utterly dependent, developing trust is based on the dependability and quality of the child's caregivers.

    What are the psychosocial stages? ›

    Erik Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development
    StagePsychosocial CrisisBasic Virtue
    1.Trust vs. MistrustHope
    2.Autonomy vs. ShameWill
    3.Initiative vs. GuiltPurpose
    4.Industry vs. InferiorityCompetency
    4 more rows

    What are the five psychosocial factors? ›

    Psychosocial factors included social resources (social integration and emotional support), psychological resources (perceived control, self-esteem, sense of coherence, and trust), and psychological risk factors (cynicism, vital exhaustion, hopelessness, and depressiveness).

    What is an example of ego integrity vs despair? ›

    Example items are “I am able to accept the ups and downs of my past life” (ego integrity; 3 items) and “I look back upon my life with a feeling of discontent and regret” (despair; 3 items).

    What is meant by identity crisis during adolescence? ›

    Each of Erikson's eight stages features a conflict between two opposing values. During the fifth stage, in adolescence, a person must choose between identity and identity confusion. This stage features an identity crisis. During an identity crisis, a person “tries on” different identities and ways of being.

    What is an example of Erikson's theory in real life? ›


    And integrity is the key to trust. If your company claims to be green and to love the environment, for example, but your employees know you secretly dump waste into the ocean, they question your integrity. And that means they can't really trust you.

    What are the 4 stages of psychosocial development? ›

    Stages of Psychosocial Development. Stage 1: Trust Versus Mistrust. Stage 2: Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt. Stage 3: Initiative Versus Guilt.

    What is the main idea of psychosocial development? ›

    The main idea behind Erikson's theory of psychosocial development is that our personality develops in stages, and at every one of these stages a psychosocial crisis unfolds in a way that determines our personality development based on the outcome.

    What is the primary psychosocial task of adolescence? ›

    Erikson believed that the primary psychosocial task of adolescence was establishing an identity.

    What is your psychosocial development? ›

    Psychosocial development describes how a person's personality develops, and how social skills are learned from infancy through adulthood.

    What are the 7 stages of development? ›

    • Infant Development.
    • Toddler Development.
    • Preschooler Development.
    • Middle Childhood Development.
    • Adolescent Development.
    • Adult Development.

    What are the seven psychosocial? ›

    Aspects of wellbeing include: biological, material, social, spiritual, cultural, emotional, and mental (ACT Alliance & Church of Sweden, 2015).

    What is psychological development in simple words? ›

    psychological development, the development of human beings' cognitive, emotional, intellectual, and social capabilities and functioning over the course of a normal life span, from infancy through old age. It is the subject matter of the discipline known as developmental psychology.


    1. Adolescent Brain Development - Part 1
    (Clarity Child Guidance Center)
    2. The Neuroscience of the Teenage Brain - with Sarah-Jayne Blakemore
    (The Royal Institution)
    3. The Attachment Theory: How Childhood Affects Life
    4. Changes during Puberty - Part 1 | Reaching Adolescence | Don't Memorise
    (Don't Memorise)
    5. Stages of Adolescent Development [AP Psychology Unit 6 Topic 4] (6.4)
    (Mr. Sinn)
    6. Child and Adolescent Development | Positive Parenting
    (Doc Snipes)
    Top Articles
    Latest Posts
    Article information

    Author: Lilliana Bartoletti

    Last Updated: 02/20/2023

    Views: 5866

    Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

    Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

    Author information

    Name: Lilliana Bartoletti

    Birthday: 1999-11-18

    Address: 58866 Tricia Spurs, North Melvinberg, HI 91346-3774

    Phone: +50616620367928

    Job: Real-Estate Liaison

    Hobby: Graffiti, Astronomy, Handball, Magic, Origami, Fashion, Foreign language learning

    Introduction: My name is Lilliana Bartoletti, I am a adventurous, pleasant, shiny, beautiful, handsome, zealous, tasty person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.