Handbook of identity theory and research


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Handbook of identity theory and research

  1. 1. 2The Identity Statuses: Origins,Meanings, and InterpretationsJane Kroger and James E. MarciaAbstractThis chapter describes the origins and development of the identity sta-tuses and provides a brief overview of studies into antecedent, concur-rent, and consequent implications of the construct. In so doing, it reviewsselected personality, relational, behavioral, and developmental variables thathave been examined in relation to the identity statuses over the past 45years. Additionally, the chapter addresses some of the many implicationsthat the identity statuses hold for intervention as well as the relationshipof the identity status paradigm to other models of identity. The rooted-ness of the identity statuses in Erikson’s concept of identity versus iden-tity diffusion (confusion) is discussed, and meta-analyses of the identitystatuses in relation to selected variables are presented. Therapeutic andeducational interventions for individuals in each identity status are alsodiscussed.One always begins with a theory. The onlyquestion is whether or not that theory is madeexplicit and testable, or remains implicit anduntestable. Only when theories are made explicitcan their propositions be falsified. The identitystatuses—on which much current identity theoryand research is based (Kroger, 2007)—originatedfrom attempts to validate a major construct, egoJ. Kroger ( )Psychology Department, University of Tromsø, Tromsø,Norwaye-mail: jane.kroger@uit.noidentity, drawn from Erikson’s (1950) ego psy-choanalytic theory. In this chapter, James Marciabegins by detailing the origins and meanings ofthe identity statuses. He also provides thoughts onthe construct validity and measurement of iden-tity. Jane Kroger then turns to the interpretationsof the identity statuses by reviewing studies thataddress key questions that have been asked byidentity status researchers over the history of themodel, spanning more than 40 years. She con-cludes with comments on the implications of theidentity statuses for intervention as well as theplace of the identity status paradigm in relationto other perspectives on identity covered in thepresent volume.31S.J. Schwartz et al. (eds.), Handbook of Identity Theory and Research,DOI 10.1007/978-1-4419-7988-9_2, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011
  2. 2. 32 J. Kroger and J.E. MarciaOrigins and Meanings of the IdentityStatusesTheoretical OriginsErik Erikson (1950), a practicing psychoana-lyst, located his theory of psychosocial devel-opment, as well as his central concept of egoidentity, within the matrix of psychoanalytic the-ory. Specifically, ego identity arose from theextension of psychoanalytic theory known as“ego psychology.” In what became an introduc-tion to Erikson’s (1959) monograph, Rapaport(1958, p. 5) laid out basic assumptions under-lying the work discussed in this chapter aswell as a description of the field of egopsychology:Before beginning our survey, it will be worthreminding ourselves that the ego, the id, and thesuperego are concepts. They are abstractions that(sic) refer to certain characteristics of behavior.In contrast to the id, which refers to peremptoryaspects of behavior, the ego refers to aspects ofbehavior which are delayable, bring about delay,or are themselves, products of delay.Three phases may be distinguished in Freud’sdevelopment of the concept of ego functions(cf. Rapaport, 1958). First, the ego was viewedas a structure preventing the re-encountering ofpainful affect occasioned by an experience occur-ring in external reality. Second, the ego was seenas oriented toward dealing with intrapsychic dan-gers occasioned by id-dominated fantasies, ratherthan arising from external reality. Finally, the egowas freed somewhat from its dependence uponboth external reality and the id and consideredas a structure having its own genetic roots andenergies. This third function of the ego was intro-duced in Freud’s (1946) work on the role of egoand ego defense mechanisms.Hartmann, Kris, and Lowenstein (1946) fur-ther established autonomy for the ego by pos-tulating that both ego and id were differenti-ated from a common matrix, implying that theego, in its origins, was characterized by bothunique processes and its own energy. The infantentered the world “pre-adapted” to an “averageexpectable environment.” This meant that theego was autonomous in two senses: it had itsown pattern for development (the epigeneticprinciple) and mechanisms, which, though id-and conflict-initiated, eventually became freedfrom their instinctual origins. At the same time,theorists such as Adler, Horney, Sullivan, andKardiner were exploring the realms of inter-personal relations and the influences of societyon ego development (Rapaport, 1958). Eriksonwas the heir and systematizer of all of thesedevelopments.Erikson spelled out eight stages of ego growth,each marked by a chronological phase-specificpsychosocial crisis. Ideally, at each phase thereis a mutuality or cogwheeling (as in the meshingof gears) between the developing individual andhis/her social milieu, resulting in the predomi-nantly positive resolutions of psychosocial crises.The relationship between the individual and soci-ety, rather than being the primarily antagonisticone described by Freud (1930, 1961), was a co-constructive one. Rapaport (1958, p. 104) putsthis nicely:In Erikson’s conception, neither does the individ-ual adapt to society nor does society mold him(sic) into its pattern; rather, society and individualform a unity within which a mutual regulation takesplace. The social institutions are pre-conditions ofindividual development, and the developing indi-vidual’s behavior, in turn, elicits that help whichsociety gives through its adult members directed byits institutions and traditions. Society is not merelya prohibitor or provider; it is the necessary matrixof the development of all behavior.Identity and Late AdolescenceThe psychosocial crisis of late adolescence waspostulated to be identity versus identity diffusion(or confusion, in Erikson’s later writings). Facedwith the imminence of adult tasks (e.g., getting ajob, becoming a citizen, and planning marriage),the late adolescent must relinquish the childhoodposition of being “given to” and prepare to bethe “giver.” Accomplishing this involves chang-ing one’s worldview as well as projecting oneself
  3. 3. 2 The Identity Statuses: Origins, Meanings, and Interpretations 33imaginatively into the future via a possible occu-pational path (see also Skorikov & Vondracek,Chapter 29, this volume). This self-reconstructiveprocess is assumed to strengthen overall egoprocesses as the individual becomes capable ofhandling a broader range of developmental tasks.Ego strengthening occurs on both an internallevel (e.g., delay of impulses) and an externallevel (e.g., adaptation to societal demands).The psychosocial task of ego identity devel-opment is essentially one of integration. Theachievement of ego identity involves a synthe-sis of childhood identifications in the individual’sown terms, so that she/he establishes a reciprocalrelationship with her/his society and maintains afeeling of continuity within her/himself. It repre-sents a reformulation of all that the individual hasbeen into a core of what she/he is to become.Researching Erikson’s Identity ConstructConcepts such as “configuration,” “synthesis,”and “core” suggest the formation of an inter-nal structure. The problem for empirical researchwas how to determine the presence or absenceand qualities of this structure. No one ever seesan ego, or a superego. One observes only thebehavioral referents for hypothesized states ofthese personality structures. Likewise, no onecan observe an identity. What can be seen andmeasured are behaviors that should result if anidentity has or has not been formed.The task at the onset of identity researchwas to determine what observable referentswere available that would point to the presence,absence, and nature of the hypothesized under-lying identity structure. Erikson furnished somedirection for this work by specifying two issuesconfronting the late adolescent: the choice of anoccupation and the formation of an ideology.In general, it is the inability to settle on an occu-pational identity which disturbs young people.(Erikson, 1963, p. 252)To envisage a future, the young adult may alsoneed that something which Shaw called “ a reli-gion” and “ a clear comprehension of life, in thelight of an intelligible theory.” . . .we would callthis something-between-a-theory-and-a-religion anideology. . . a necessity for the growing ego whichis involved in the succession of generations, and inadolescence is committed to some new synthesis ofpast and future: a synthesis which must include buttranscend the past, even as identity does. (Erikson,1963, p. 97)Choosing an occupation involves the individ-ual’s consideration and integration of at least thefollowing Eriksonian criteria for identity forma-tion: “[integration of] . . .constitutional givens,idiosyncratic libidinal needs, favored capaci-ties, significant identifications, successful subli-mations, and consistent roles” (Erikson, 1969,p. 116). Forming a personally and sociallyrelevant ideology involves, again, “[integrat-ing] . . .significant identifications” and “consis-tent roles.” “Effective defenses” are not so specif-ically embedded in the areas of occupation andideology, although they appear related to both ofthese areas, especially when changes in their con-tent occur as the result of “identity crises.” Anysignificant change in personality structure, even ifpositive, elicits anxiety that must be controlled inorder to permit effective functioning in the world.Embedded in the Erikson quotation above, andstated specifically in the following one, is the ideathat commitments in the two areas of occupa-tion and ideology are accompanied by a periodof reflection and trial and error, whereby past pat-terns are examined, some discarded, and othersintegrated into a new identity configuration.The final identity, then, as fixed at the end ofadolescence is superordinated to any single iden-tification with individuals of the past: it includesall significant identifications, but it also alters themin order to make a unique and reasonably coherentwhole of them (Erikson, 1956, pp. 67–68).Based on Erikson’s ideas, two criteria for thepresence of identity formation were proposed:exploration (originally called “crisis”; Marcia,1966), and commitment. Exploration referred tosome period of re-thinking, sorting through, andtrying out various roles and life plans. Theexploratory period is a time when the late ado-lescent is actively involved in choosing amongmeaningful alternatives. Commitment referred tothe degree of personal investment the individual
  4. 4. 34 J. Kroger and J.E. Marciaexpressed in a course of action or belief. Thetwo life areas in which exploration and com-mitment were to be assessed were occupationand ideology, the latter being composed of reli-gious and political positions. The centrality toidentity of both religion and politics recur inErikson’s theoretical writings and biographicalsketches (Erikson, 1956, 1963, 1969). Althoughother researchers have considered identity to existin separate domains (e.g., “occupational iden-tity” or “political identity”), domains were usedhere to point to a hypothesized underlying iden-tity structure, not as “identities” in themselves.Essentially, they were a “map” used to indicatea more fundamental “territory.” Two measures ofidentity were constructed. The first was a semi-projective measure: the Ego Identity IncompleteSentences Blank (EI-ISB). This was intendedto be an overall measure of ego identity andto include in its scoring criteria as thorough asurvey of Erikson’s ideas concerning identity for-mation as possible. The EI-ISB scoring manualwas constructed according to the general crite-rion: if one has achieved an ego identity, eitherby the criteria of exploration and commitment orin terms of behaviors which Erikson proposed tobe indicative of identity formation, what shoulda participant’s responses be (Marcia, 1964)? Thescoring criteria for the EI-ISB comprised the fol-lowing characteristics excerpted from Erikson’stheory: self-reflection, a realistic sense of thefuture, commitment to occupation and ideology,self-initiated action, relatively safe expression ofimpulses, reformulation of childhood personal-ity antecedents in adult terms, autonomy, groupaffiliation, social integration, and internal locus ofself-evaluation.The second measure was a semi-structuredinterview, the identity status interview (ISI), andan accompanying scoring manual. The interviewwas designed to reveal the presence or absence ofa developmental process: the history of how indi-viduals, through the course of their lives, cameto their present identity resolutions. It asked par-ticipants in some depth how they came to theirpresent commitments or lack thereof; what theirpast influences had been; as well as how andwhy they had changed from whom they hadbeen in childhood. The actual content of occupa-tional choices and beliefs was not important. Thefocus was on the developmental process: howwere choices arrived at; how thorough was therespondent’s exploration; what were the relatedfeelings accompanying exploration; how firm andhow actualized were commitments; and underwhat foreseeable circumstances would commit-ments change. The scoring manual containedboth theoretical rationales for evaluating partic-ipants’ responses and sample responses.The Identity StatusesWhereas the EI-ISB yielded an overall score forego identity, the identity status interview (ISI)assessed the depth and breadth of exploration andthe extent of commitment in the areas of occupa-tion and ideology (religion plus politics). The ISIprovided a classification of individuals into oneof four groups called identity statuses. Two sta-tus groups were high in commitment. One grouphad arrived at commitments via an exploratoryprocess and was called identity achievement. Thesecond committed group had proceeded by takingon commitments from significant others, with lit-tle or no exploration, and was called foreclosure.Identity achievements were seen as having “con-structed” identities; foreclosures were consideredto have “conferred” identities. They seemed to beheirs to a bequeathed identity rather than havingformulated their own via an exploratory pro-cess. The other two statuses were characterizedby a low degree of commitment. Moratoriumswere struggling to reach commitments and wereengaged in an exploratory period. Identity dif-fusions were not committed and had undergonelittle meaningful exploration. These two groupswere distinguished by differences in a senseof concern and direction. Moratoriums wereactively attempting to form an identity and weretorn between alternatives. Their future directionswere present but vaguely defined. Moratoriumswere, optimally, a prelude to eventual identityachievement. Diffusions were relatively direc-tionless, unconcerned about their lack of commit-ment, and easily swayed by external influences.
  5. 5. 2 The Identity Statuses: Origins, Meanings, and Interpretations 35Following are portraits of the identity statusesthat have emerged from thousands of identity sta-tus interviews as well as accumulated empiricalfindings since the initial identity status constructvalidation research was undertaken. Much of thisresearch will be reviewed in subsequent sections.Identity achievements. These persons impressone as solid with important focuses in their lives.While they retain some flexibility, they are noteasily swayed by external influences and pres-sures in their chosen life directions. Even ifthey encounter obstacles, one senses that theywill persevere in their chosen directions, unlessproceeding becomes clearly unrealistic. Theyhave room for understanding the experiencesof others, whose differing opinions they canconsider reflectively and non-defensively. Theircharacteristics of “self-sameness and continuity”(Erikson’s descriptors) make them dependableand sources of strength for others.Moratoriums. Moratoriums are struggling todefine themselves. They are lively, engaging,conflicted, and sometimes tiring to be around.They tend to use the identity status interview(as well as many conversations) in the service ofdetermining who they are and who they are to be.They may try to draw others into their identity-formation project, sometimes setting others up totake a position polar to their own stated one, sothat they may be at least temporarily relieved ofthe internal conflict they are undergoing by con-verting an interior struggle into an external one.Moratoriums are often exquisitely morally sensi-tive. And, if they are articulate, they can engageothers in their quest and appear, albeit briefly, ascharismatic figures. There are other Moratoriumswho appear to be drowning in their strugglesto swim against the tide of earlier authority-based identifications. Rather than explorers, theybecome ruminators, perpetually mired in whatseem to be insoluble dilemmas. In the bestof outcomes, Moratoriums make self-relevantchoices and move on to the firm commitmentsof identity achievement; in more unfortunateoutcomes, they can become paralyzed in theirvacillations.Foreclosures. Foreclosures may appearas strong and self-directed as achievements.However, there is a brittleness, and, hence,underlying fragility, to their position. Becauseof their difficulty in considering alternativesseriously, they must maintain their stancesdefensively and either deny or distort discon-firming information. If their values are generallymainstream and they stay within social contextssupporting those values, they appear “happy,”“well-adjusted,” loving their families and theirfamilies loving them. But if they stray from theseconforming positions, they experience both self-and familial rejection. The longer a foreclosedposition is maintained, the greater the attendantshame and guilt associated with questioningthose positions. Often a foreclosure positionis maintained by adopting an “us” and “them”posture, wherein the “them” can be a bit less thanfully human. The price paid by the foreclosurefor security is a limited, although sometimesreasonably satisfying, life.Identity diffusions. Diffusions come in a vari-ety of styles, all having in common a weak ornon-existent exploratory period and an inabil-ity to make definite commitments. At their best,diffusions can appear extremely flexible, charm-ing, and infinitely adaptable. They can be what-ever current influences shape them to be. But,in the absence of an internal sense of self-definition, they must constantly look externallyto define who they are and will be. At theirworst, diffusions are lost and isolated, beset byfeelings of emptiness and meaninglessness. Bothtypes of diffusions seem to lack a solid identi-fication with just those early childhood figuresfrom whom foreclosures do not differentiate. Inidentity terms, foreclosure, because it is at leastsome identity, is preferable to diffusion. Whilesuperficially “well-adjusted” diffusions do exist,they require a defining context to supply exter-nally what is internally lacking.Research StrategyThe research methodology used to validatethe new identity measures focused on con-struct validity (Cronbach & Meehl, 1955). Thisprocedure allows for the investigation of complex
  6. 6. 36 J. Kroger and J.E. Marciatheoretical ideas such as identity by requir-ing an operational definition of the construct—facilitated here through the EI-ISB and ISImeasures—and a choice of dependent variablesselected for their theoretical relevance to the con-structs under investigation. The choice of theoret-ically relevant dependent variables is especiallyimportant if the results of studies are to have thebroadest possible implications. One should learnas much from negative as from positive results.For example, if the identity construct does notrelate to other measures of ego strength, then oneis pretty certain that either the identity measure orthe theory underlying it is invalid. However, if thedependent variables chosen are unrelated, or onlytangentially related, to ego strength, then neitherpositive nor negative measures tells us much.In the process of operationalizing any com-plex construct such as identity, the construct isdrained of some meaning. No operationaliza-tion of Erikson’s identity construct would likelyever include either all of the content or spiritof his lengthy—and sometimes inconsistent—descriptions. However, a judicious and fairlybroad selection of dependent variables, if they aretheoretically grounded, will, through numerousstudies, replenish and extend the meaning of theconstruct, as has been the case with the exten-sive research on the identity statuses. Erikson’soriginal ideas have been expanded by means ofthe established relationships between the identitystatuses and the variables discussed in the lat-ter part of this chapter. Identity status researchhas facilitated the extension of Erikson’s theoryinto theoretical realms he had not specificallyenvisioned (e.g., moral development, cognitivedevelopment, object relations).A number of dependent variables wereemployed in the original identity status constructvalidation studies (Marcia, 1966, 1967). Only afew will be described here, those with especialtheoretical relevance. They may be consideredas “near” and “far” variables. “Near” variablesare those, which, on a face validity basis, mustrelate to the construct. For example, another mea-sure of the same construct, such as the identitystatuses and the EI-ISB, or a variable that “com-mon sense” would predict to be related, suchas foreclosure and authoritarianism. “Near” vari-ables are those whose content comes very closeto the definition of the construct under investi-gation. If no relationships are found with these“near” variables, then something is wrong eitherwith the measure of the construct or with the the-ory underlying the construct. “Far” variables referto more distant, less obvious, theoretical proposi-tions underlying the construct being studied (e.g.,identity status and performance on a stressfulconcept attainment task). If no relationships arefound between these “far” variables and the con-struct, then again the underlying theory may befaulty or the measure of the construct inadequate,and, in addition, the choice of the dependentvariable may be inappropriate—or any combi-nation of the above. If positive relationships arefound, then, in addition to some validity beingestablished for the construct, validity can accrueto the theory underlying the construct (e.g., egopsychoanalytic theory).Initial Identity Status ResearchIn the first identity status studies, the primary“near” relationship established was between thenew identity statuses and the overall mea-sure of ego identity, the EI-ISB. Although thisapproaches a form of concurrent validity, the EI-ISB had not been previously established as ameasure of ego identity. As stated before, the EI-ISB was scored according to criteria representinga very broad reading of Erikson’s theory. Thepositive relationship that was found between thismeasure and the identity statuses suggests that thestatuses, although a rather shorthand measure ofidentity, provided an adequate representation ofthe broader Eriksonian theory as represented bythe EI-ISB.A second “near” measure was authoritarian-ism, on which foreclosures scored highest of thestatuses. That persons who had unquestioninglyfollowed directions laid down for them by impor-tant childhood figures should espouse values of“law and order,” preference for a strong leader,and suspicion of others unlike themselves wasconsidered evidence corroborating the validity
  7. 7. 2 The Identity Statuses: Origins, Meanings, and Interpretations 37of the foreclosure designation. With respect tounderlying psychoanalytic theory, the formationof an ego ideal (the final development of thesuperego) is proposed to occur during adoles-cence (Blos, 1974). Failure to complete this taskleaves one at the mercy of an un-reconstructedsuperego formed in childhood, when the internal-ized parental figures are formidable characters inthe child’s life. The suggestion that emerges fromthe now oft-found relationship between foreclo-sure and authoritarianism is that persons in thisidentity status remain fixed in childhood valuesand, in their adult lives, seek out authorities uponwhom they can depend for guidance. Clinically,they would also be expected to find themselvesat the mercy of strict internal (parental) stan-dards that they have never re-formulated in theirown terms. In order to avoid guilt and anxi-ety, it would seemingly be important for theseindividuals to maintain, as closely as possible,a living situation that approximates that of theirchildhoods. Any other context would seriouslythreaten their rigid value structure. This predica-ment is described by Erikson (1987) in his discus-sion of “pseudo-speciation,” wherein it becomesnecessary, for defensive purposes, to divide theworld into “us” (fully human) and “them” (sub-human) (see also Moshman, 2005; Moshman,Chapter 39, this volume).A third “near” measure involved participants’susceptibility to positive or negative feedbackfrom the researcher following their performanceon a difficult conceptual task. It was found thatparticipants in the statuses of foreclosure anddiffusion changed their estimates of their ownabilities following feedback from others morethan did achievements and moratoriums. Again,these findings were consistent in differentiatingthose who had constructed, or were in the pro-cess of constructing, their own identities on theirown terms from those who either had adoptedconferred identities or who had no firm identities.An important “far” dependent variable wasperformance on a fairly complex concept attain-ment task administered under the stressful con-dition of evaluation apprehension (i.e., partic-ipants believed that they were working on atask assessing “academic potential”). Participantswere shown a large chart displaying 24 rect-angular cards. Included in each card were fivecharacteristics: one or two, large or small, blackor white, squares or circles, and located on eitherthe right or left side of a dividing line. Hence,each card contained five concepts: number (1 or2), size (large or small), color (black or white),shape (squares or circles), and position (right orleft). The experimenter pointed to one of the 24cards as an example of the correct concept tobe arrived at by the participant, for example, acard having one large, black, square on the right-hand side. In this case, the concept to be arrivedat might be “one, large.” Then, the participantpointed to other cards on the chart and receivedpositive or negative feedback as to whether ornot that card contained the correct concept. Inthe case of “one, large,” a card with one, small,circle, on the left, would be called “negative.” Acard with one, large, square on the right wouldbe called “positive.” By a deductive process ofelimination, participants arrived at the correctconcept. The task was timed, and negative pointswere accumulated for time passed and incorrectguesses made.Now, why should efficient guessing at con-cepts, in the face of stressful conditions, relateto participants’ interview responses concerningtheir occupational plans and ideological beliefs?The reasoning was as follows: Identity devel-opment is assumed to constitute a stage in egogrowth. A primary function of the ego is to medi-ate between internal states (e.g., anxiety) and thedemands of external reality in order to functioneffectively in the world. To the extent that anidentity has been achieved, ego processes shouldbe stronger, more efficient, and better able todeal with a complex task in the face of disrup-tive feelings. If the identity statuses accuratelyreflected identity formation and, hence, greaterego strength, then participants in “higher” ormore mature identity statuses (achievement andmoratorium) should perform better than thosein the “lower” or less mature (foreclosure anddiffusion) statuses (given previously establishedequivalence in intelligence). That they did sosuggested validity for the identity statuses, forErikson’s concept of ego growth via resolution
  8. 8. 38 J. Kroger and J.E. Marciaof psychosocial crises and for the underlyingpsychoanalytic conception of the role of ego pro-cesses. It would be difficult to link explorationand commitment in occupation and ideology,assessed by a semi-structured interview, with per-formance on a rather sterile, stressful conceptattainment task without using the concept of egodevelopment as an explanation.Other dependent variables were also employedin the early identity status studies (e.g., levelof aspiration, self-esteem, anxiety, parentalantecedents), but the above have been chosen asimportant examples of moving from theory, tomeasure, to validation, and back to enrichment oftheory via accumulated empirical findings.The early identity studies—1964–1969—usedonly male participants. However, once some val-idation was established with men, it was essen-tial to broaden the criteria for identity statusto issues of relevance for women, and this wasdone in 1969–1970 (Marcia & Friedman, 1970)and further in 1972 (Josselson, 1972). The initialinterview area added was “attitudes toward sexu-ality,” following Erikson’s writings on women’sidentity development. Evidence for the impor-tance of adding this domain for women’s iden-tity was provided by Schenkel and Marcia(1972). Subsequently, the area of “sexuality”has been broadened to include “ideas aboutrelationships,” and this domain, together withother related domains (see Marcia, Waterman,Matteson, Archer, & Orlofsky, 1993) is cur-rently used in interviews with both men andwomen.Some Implications of Methodfor Assessing Identity StatusIt is essential not to underestimate the importanceof the ISI method in assessing late-adolescentidentity formation. A number of questionnairemeasures assessing identity status have beendeveloped in the service of “efficiency” and“objectivity.” These measures could be consid-ered acceptable to the extent that they corre-spond closely to identity status categorizationusing the interview. However, because of theirclosed-ended form, they all lack the opportunityto probe, in depth, the genuineness and exten-siveness of a person’s exploratory process andthe depth of subsequent commitment (Marcia,2007). Just asking research participants “haveyou explored . . .” and “are you committed . . .”allows for only superficial, individual, interpre-tations of the questions. Whether or not whatthe researcher means by exploration and commit-ment is the same as what the respondent meansis unknown. In addition to involving much moretheoretically rich interview scoring criteria, theinterview and its scoring criteria also have a“built-in” developmental focus. How, when, andwhy an individual came to their current positionis important.New shorter, more “objectively scorable”measures have enabled researchers to use largenumbers of research participants and employstatistics suited for large sample sizes. Perhapsthese large N studies average out the error vari-ance due to some invalid individual categoriza-tions. And, if a questionnaire measure yieldsidentity status categorizations close to those ofthe lengthier interview, then there is certainlynothing wrong with using such questionnaire“indicators” as proxies for the identity statusesarrived at by the lengthier interview. The inter-view, itself, was an “indicator.” That is, it wasformulated to “point to” an underlying, essen-tially unobservable, hypothesized identity struc-ture. Similarly, the questionnaire measures can“point to” the identity statuses as determinedby the more thorough and careful interview.The problem is that the identity statuses, asdetermined by objective questionnaires, can eas-ily become social psychological or sociologicalconcepts, sometimes superficially understood asthey become unmoored from their original egopsychoanalytic bases. An original requirementfor administering an identity status interview wasthe interviewer’s thorough grounding in ego psy-choanalytic theory, Erikson’s psychosocial devel-opmental theory, and interviewing techniques.The interview involves the thoughtful assess-ment of one individual by an empathic otherin a relationship of rapport (see Bartholomew,Henderson, & Marcia, 2000). That is a far cry
  9. 9. 2 The Identity Statuses: Origins, Meanings, and Interpretations 39from a group setting where 200 (or more) personsmark X’s in boxes.A Current AssessmentWhat can be, and, to some extent, has beenlost with questionnaire methods is the originaltheoretical grounding of the construct and ofthe researcher, as well as the accuracy of anyone identity status assessment. For example, notunderstanding that a developmental process isembedded in the interview itself may lend a “non-developmental” quality to the identity statuses,portraying them as only snapshots of currentidentity states. Not recognizing the degree oftheoretical underpinning of the interview scor-ing manual and the related EI-ISB, as well asnot considering the extensive nomological net-work that has been established for the identitystatuses, can suggest that the identity statusesinadequately represent Erikson’s theory. This wasjust Erikson’s fear when he was skeptical aboutempirical research being conducted with his con-cepts. And there is some validity to this con-cern. Not all of Erikson’s ideas about identityare represented directly by the identity statusdefinitions themselves. Likewise, not all of thetheoretical richness underlying the identity statusconcepts is reflected in questionnaire measures.However, to the extent that these latter measuresdo accurately correspond to interview ratings,and to the extent that the interview categoriesand their associated nomological networks reflectessential aspects of Erikson’s theory, the road isthen clear for the accumulation of findings thatenrich the theory and give back to it enhancedmeaning.That said, most current identity researchersare neither psychoanalytically oriented nor con-cerned with whether or not classical psycho-analytic theory, or even psychosocial develop-mental theory, is enhanced. There are posi-tive and negative aspects to this unmooring ofthe identity status concepts from their originaltheoretical base. On the positive side, it hasfreed the concepts to be applied to such diverseareas as general education, counselor training,theological studies, business training, politicalscience, sports education, self-regulated learningplatforms, remedial youth projects. Negatively,however, few of these applied settings, andresearch conducted within them, have consideredthe psychoanalytic grounding of the identity sta-tuses and the implications of findings for theadvancement of theory. In some senses, perhapsthe popular identity statuses have “succeeded”all too well. I (JEM) recall musing at a recentsymposium as to why the identity statuses hadpersisted long beyond the time when such con-structs were likely to have been subsumed byothers. A colleague responded that it might bebecause they had “street cred.” I winced at this,realizing the truth of his statement and feelingregretful about the shallowness of understandingthat could accompany their acceptance—at thesame time being pleased that so many had foundthem so useful. My plea, here, is that readers willremember where the identity status ideas camefrom and the wealth of theory that underlay, andunderlies, them.Interpretations of the IdentityStatuses: Studies and TheoreticalPlaceOnce some predictive validity had accumu-lated for the identity statuses and researcherswere reasonably assured of their viability, addi-tional variables holding concurrent relationshipswith the identity statuses could be investigated.Concurrent relationships refer to variables thatoperate in conjunction with one’s current identitystatus. In the two decades following the ini-tial investigations of construct validity describedin the previous section, some researchers ques-tioned whether or not different clusters ofpersonality variables (Adams & Shea, 1979;Ginsburg & Orlofsky, 1981) or cognitive vari-ables (Berzonsky & Neimeyer, 1988; Podd, 1972)might be differentially associated with the fouridentity positions. And, indeed, support wasfound for many of the hypothesized differencesamong the statuses, providing further evidence ofthe paradigm’s construct validity. Some of these
  10. 10. 40 J. Kroger and J.E. Marciapersonality studies are reviewed in the followingsection.In the decades of identity status researchthat followed, investigators have asked questionsregarding antecedent and consequent conditionsof the various identity statuses. Antecedent con-ditions refer to developmental precursors of iden-tity. For example, what kind of child-rearingpractices might be associated with one iden-tity status or another (Adams, 1985; Grotevant,1983); what are the early memories (reflectingpsychosexual stage fixation) of different statuses(Josselson, 1982; Orlofsky & Frank, 1986); whatresolutions of prior psychosocial stages are asso-ciated with various identity statuses (Kowatz &Marcia, 1991). Consequent conditions refer tosubsequent developmental implications of theconstruct. For example, what kind of intimaterelationships will persons in different identitystatuses establish (Orlofsky, Marcia, & Lesser,1973; Whitbourne & Tesch, 1985); what kindof child-rearing practices will different identitystatus persons employ (MacKinnon & Marcia,2002); what is the impact of different typesof identity resolutions at late adolescence uponthe resolution of subsequent psychosocial stages(Årseth, Kroger, Martinussen, & Bakken, 2009).Antecedent and consequent conditions could beinvestigated legitimately only after initial con-struct validity was established, and examples ofsome of these studies will also be presentedbelow.During the second, third, fourth, and fifthdecades of identity status research, questionsregarding possible gender differences in identitystatus have also been explored, alongside ques-tions of identity status development and ethnicidentity formation. Erikson’s (1968) discussionsof gender and identity suggested that women mayfollow different developmental pathways in theidentity-formation process as compared to men,and a number of investigations began focusingon possible gender differences in overall identitystatus distributions as well as on the relevanceof various domains used to assess identity status(Goossens, 2001; Rogow, Marcia, & Slugoski,1983). Investigators also questioned whether ornot there might be gender differences in theactual timing of identity status development,arguing that women’s earlier physical maturationmight be associated with more advanced identitydevelopment compared to men (Kroger, 1997).Questions about the ethnic identity-formationprocess also appeared (Phinney, 2006; Phinney& Tarver, 1988), alongside questions of iden-tity development both in terms of global iden-tity status changes and in specific identity statusdomains such as work, politics, religion, and sex-uality (Archer, 1982; Fadjukoff, Pulkkinen, &Kokko, 2005). Studies have also been expandingthe identity statuses to explore the implications ofruminative identity exploration and of identifyingwith commitments for ongoing identity devel-opment (Luyckx, Goossens, Soenens, & Beyers,2006; Luyckx, Soenens, Goossens, Beckx, &Wouters, 2008b).Early in the fifth decade of identity statusresearch, researchers have also begun turningto meta-analytic techniques to examine earlierstudies of the identity statuses in relation toselected personality variables, antecedent andconsequent conditions, and developmental pat-terns of change and stability, particularly wheresome conflicting findings have emerged over pre-ceding decades. Where meta-analyses1 have beenperformed, their results will be presented in sub-sequent sections. Several explanatory points aremade here with regard to the studies reviewedbelow.As noted, the selected variables that are thesubject of the identity status studies reviewedin the following sections can be construed ashaving a concurrent, antecedent, or consequentfocus. These categorizations and some rationalefor their relationships to the identity statuses,based upon the theoretical considerations previ-ously outlined, will be discussed. However, twocaveats have to be stated. The first is that therationales proffered here may not be the ratio-nales that all, or any, researchers stated in theirindividual studies. To the extent that they are not,their discussion here is an instance of theoreti-cal “bootstrapping.” That is, theoretical rationalesare offered post hoc for studies and findings,when those studies did not necessarily set outclearly to test the theoretical propositions. So, the
  11. 11. 2 The Identity Statuses: Origins, Meanings, and Interpretations 41rationales offered below are from the perspectiveof the original theoretical underpinnings of theidentity statuses and not necessarily those of theauthors’ studies. Second, although a variable may“look” or be conceived as developmental, mostvariables are measured cross-sectionally and notlongitudinally. For example, when identity isfound to be related to intimacy, one assumes thatintimacy is a condition consequent to identity. Infact, because both measures are given simulta-neously rather than sequentially over time, theassumed developmental progression lies only inthe description of the measures and the theoreti-cal model underlying them, not in the design ofthe study.Identity Status and ConcurrentPersonality VariablesSelf-esteem. A number of studies of identity sta-tus in relation to self-esteem measures have beenundertaken over the past four decades. One prob-lem with self-esteem measures is that they maycome from differing theoretical perspectives, sothat their meanings are confounded. For example,does a self-esteem test used in one of the stud-ies measure Rogerian real-ideal self-discrepancy,psychoanalytic proximity of observed self toego ideal, or general “feeling good about one-self.” That being said, one would expect thehighest self-esteem scores from identity achieve-ments and foreclosures—but for different rea-sons. Achievements have successfully under-taken an important developmental task; theyhave “paid their psychosocial dues” by strug-gling to find meaningful life directions for them-selves. Foreclosures may have defensively highself-esteem scores, in attempts to “shore up”their rather rigid and superficial self-conceptsand defend themselves against feelings of uncer-tainty or deficiency. Moratoriums are strugglingor stuck and are unlikely to be feeling very goodabout themselves (depending, of course, on theday you test them, given their high variability).Diffusions will differ according to the natureof their diffusion, but they generally would beexpected to score low on measures of self-esteem,together with moratoriums.Ryeng, Kroger, and Martinussen (2010a)undertook a meta-analysis of some 18 of 35studies that provided data on the relationshipbetween identity status and self-esteem mea-sures from the larger identity status databasedescribed in footnote 1. These studies wereselected because they all used measures of self-esteem that assessed a similar, global self-esteemconstruct. Among studies that assessed identitystatus and self-esteem as continuous variables,identity achievement was the only status to havea positive correlation with self-esteem (r = 0.35);this correlation is considered moderate in termsof Cohen’s (1988) criteria. Among studies thatassessed identity status as a categorical variable,the effect size difference between foreclosuresand achievements was especially low (Hedges’g = 0.00)2; this finding indicated no significantdifference in self-esteem scores between iden-tity achievements and foreclosures. Furthermore,the confidence interval for this effect size dif-ference contained zero, indicating a lack of sig-nificant difference from zero for the identityachievement–foreclosure comparison. The effectsize for the foreclosure–diffusion comparison(Hedges’ g =0.40) was small to medium in termsof Cohen’s (1988) criteria, and the confidenceinterval did not contain zero, indicating a signifi-cant effect. The following comparisons producedvery small or small effect size differences in self-esteem scores: moratorium versus foreclosure(Hedges’ g = –0.19); achievements and diffu-sions (Hedges’ g = 0.37); moratorium versusdiffusion (Hedges’ g = 0.07). Correlational andcategorical studies support a relationship betweenidentity achievement and self-esteem; the cate-gorical analyses also support a small to mediumrelationship between the Foreclosure status andself-esteem.Anxiety. A number of investigations over thepast five decades have also explored the rela-tionships between anxiety and identity status.The theoretical linkages between anxiety andidentity status have seldom been provided inthese investigations. In general, anxiety measuresare behavior checklists about current or abiding
  12. 12. 42 J. Kroger and J.E. Marciastates. Moratoriums, because of their challengingof parental or other authorities, with the attendantoedipal consequences, as well as their discomfortover their indecisiveness, would be expected toscore highest on anxiety measures. Foreclosuresand achievements would score lower, for thesame rationales as noted above for self-esteem.And, again, whether or not diffusions are anxiouswould depend upon the nature of their diffusion.In general, they would be expected to be closeto, but lower than, moratoriums in their scores onanxiety.Lillevoll, Kroger, and Martinussen (2010a)examined the relationship between identity sta-tus and anxiety through meta-analytic tech-niques. Some 12 of 27 studies of identitystatus assessed categorically provided useabledata on the relationship between identity sta-tus and anxiety. Effect size differences in anx-iety scores for moratoriums compared withforeclosures (Hedges’ g = 0.40) were small tomoderate according to Cohen’s (1988) crite-ria. Additionally, confidence intervals for themoratorium–foreclosure comparison did not con-tain zero, which indicates that the difference inanxiety scores was significantly different fromzero. Also, of interest were the effect size dif-ferences in anxiety scores for the foreclosure–diffusion comparison (–0.41), which was smallto moderate in terms of Cohen’s criteria andthe achievement–moratorium comparison, whichwas small. Furthermore, the confidence intervalsurrounding these effect sizes also did not con-tain zero, indicating significant effects. The effectsize for the moratorium versus diffusion compar-ison (Hedges’ g = –0.01) was very small, and theconfidence interval contained zero, indicating anonsignificant effect. Results offer some supportfor the hypothesis that moratoriums have signif-icantly higher anxiety scores than foreclosuresand that foreclosures have significantly loweranxiety scores than diffusions.Locus of control. A number of studies havealso explored the relationship between locus ofcontrol and identity status in the first decade ofidentity status research. Because of their self-constructed identity-formation process, identityachievements should have high internal locus ofcontrol scores relative to other identity statuses.Moratoriums, who are currently undergoing aself-examination process, would be expected torank second to achievements. Foreclosures anddiffusions should be more externally oriented,looking to others for their self-definitions.Lillevoll, Kroger, and Martinussen (2010b)undertook a meta-analysis of identity status inrelation to locus of control and identity status.Only five of nine studies provided sufficient infor-mation for meta-analysis. Although limitationsof the small sample size must be kept in mindwhen interpreting results, the hypotheses abovewere partially supported. In terms of Cohen’s(1988) criteria, the correlations between iden-tity status and locus of control corresponded toeffect sizes that ranged from weak to moderatein the predicted directions. The following meancorrelations appeared between identity status andinternal locus of control measures: For achieve-ments, r = 0.26; for moratoriums, r = –0.17; forforeclosures, r = –0.12; and for diffusions, r =–0.15. The following mean correlations appearedbetween identity status and external locus of con-trol measures: For achievements, r = –0.17; formoratoriums, r = 0.17; for foreclosures, r = 0.19;and for diffusions, r = 0.23.Authoritarianism. The rationale for foreclo-sures scoring highest on authoritarianism wasdiscussed earlier. Moratoriums, in the midstof an authority-questioning process, shouldscore lowest on measures of authoritarianism.Achievements and diffusions would be expectedto score intermediate on measures of authoritari-anism, whereas foreclosures would score highestof all identity statuses.Ryeng, Kroger, and Martinussen (2010b)conducted a meta-analysis of the relationshipbetween identity status and authoritarianism.Some 9 of 13 studies contained sufficient datato be included in this investigation. Results con-firmed that achievements and moratoriums bothscored significantly lower than foreclosures onmeasures of authoritarianism, and these effectsizes (Hedges’ g = –0.79 and –0.67, respectively)were both large in terms of Cohen’s (1988) crite-ria. Furthermore, foreclosures also scored higherthan diffusions on authoritarianism measures, and
  13. 13. 2 The Identity Statuses: Origins, Meanings, and Interpretations 43this effect size (Hedges’ g = 0.42) was smallto moderate, according to Cohen’s (1988) crite-ria. Additionally, none of the confidence intervalsfor the three effect sizes above included zero, soresults can be interpreted as being significantlydifferent from zero. In sum, results providedstrong evidence that foreclosures score very highon measures of authoritarianism, relative to theother identity statuses.Findings here strongly support the hypoth-esis explored in Marcia’s (1966, 1967) orig-inal construct validation studies that foreclo-sures, who based their identities on identificationswith important childhood figures, would preferto follow a strong leader without questioninghis or her directions. Foreclosures are theoreti-cally at the dictates of unexamined, internalizedstandards from parents or significant others. Inorder to avoid guilt and anxiety, foreclosureswould be expected to retain a living situationthat closely approximates that of their childhood.Their high authoritarianism scores, relative to allother identity statuses, offer further evidence cor-roborating the validity of the foreclosure identitystatus.Moral reasoning. Kohlberg (1984) devel-oped a stage sequence in the complexity ofreasoning surrounding questions of justice inmoral decision-making. Pre-conventional stagesare marked by responses in which the needs ofthe self are paramount in considering what isright or just. Conventional stages of moral rea-soning reflect decisions about what is right andwrong based on the dictates of the immediatesocial group or the laws of the larger social con-text. Post-conventional levels of moral reasoningreflect a consideration of broader ethical princi-ples in deciding what is just; here, that whichis just is judged by broader principles that maybe agreed upon (and changed) by the communityor that are regarded as universal standards, suchas the right to life. In terms of the relationshipbetween Kohlberg’s stages of moral reasoningand the identity statuses, the same introspectiveprocesses that lead to the identity achievementand moratorium positions should lead also tohigher levels of reasoning about issues of moral-ity. The almost total lack of real introspectivenesson the part of diffusions should produce the low-est levels of moral reasoning. And foreclosures,who might be characterized as the standard bar-riers of the mass culture, would be expected toscore primarily at conventional moral reasoninglevels.Jespersen, Kroger, and Martinussen (2010a)undertook a meta-analysis of the relationshipbetween identity status and moral reasoning.A total of 10 out of 17 studies providedsufficient data for further analysis (five stud-ies had categorical assessments of both mea-sures and five had continuous assessments ofboth measures). Results showed a large meaneffect size (odds ratio = 6.85) when therelationship between identity achievement/non-achievement and post-conventional/non-post-conventional levels of moral reasoning wasexamined.3 However, no relationship was foundbetween the foreclosed/non-foreclosed identitystatuses and conventional/non-conventional lev-els of moral reasoning (odds ratio = 0.90).For continuous measures of both variables,it was anticipated that there would be a pos-itive mean correlation between identity statusand moral reasoning. A moderate correlation,in terms of Cohen’s (1988) criteria (r = 0.31),was found between continuous measures of iden-tity status and moral reasoning. The limitationof small sample sizes in both analyses must bekept in mind when interpreting these results;however, results partially supported the hypoth-esized expectations. In sum, the identity achievedwas significantly more likely to be reasoningat post-conventional levels of moral reasoningthan non-post-conventional levels, and a moder-ate correlation between identity status and moralreasoning was found.Ego development. Loevinger’s (1976; Hy &Loevinger, 1996) measure of ego developmentis an instrument designed to assess different lev-els of complexity in how one makes meaning ofone’s life and life experiences. The low end ofthe continuum (preconformist stages) is markedby an organization of the self in which mean-ing is derived primarily in terms of implicationsthat others and life events have for the self. Theconformist stage is marked by the interpretation
  14. 14. 44 J. Kroger and J.E. Marciaof the world in terms of the needs, expectations,and opinions of others. Postconformist stages aremarked by increasingly complex organizationsthat are aware of an inner life, seek to bal-ance the needs of others with the needs of theself, show an increasing tolerance for ambigu-ity, and a valuing of individuality. Achievementsand moratoriums, because of their resolution orproximity to resolution of a psychosocial stageissue, should score highest on this measure, withforeclosures and, especially diffusions, scoringlowest. Although moratoriums may be in a periodof feeling badly about themselves or experienc-ing anxiety, they should score relatively high onthis measure that assesses complexity of meaningconstruction rather than emotional feeling states.Jespersen, Kroger, and Martinussen (2010b)undertook a meta-analysis of the relationshipbetween identity status and level of ego devel-opment. A total of 12 out of 14 studies con-tained sufficient data to be included in the twoanalyses. Results from eight studies showed aweak to moderate relationship between identityachievement and postconformist levels of egodevelopment (odds ratio = 2.15). However, norelationship between the foreclosure status andconformist level of ego development was found.Furthermore, results from six studies showed amoderate correlation, in terms of Cohen’s (1988)criteria (r = 0.35), between continuous mea-sures of identity status and ego development.Limitations of small sample sizes must againbe considered in interpreting results. Althoughsome relationship appeared (a) between iden-tity achievement and postconformist levels ofego development and (b) between continuousmeasures of identity status and ego develop-ment, these relationships were not as strong asanticipated.Identity Status and AntecedentConditionsAttachment. Attachment styles (e.g.,Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991) refer toexpectations of relationship security based uponthe internalization of child–parent interactions.In developmental terms, secure attachmentis assumed to be a prerequisite for guilt-and shame-free exploratory behavior. Hence,achievements, who have undergone a success-ful exploratory period, should be found mostfrequently in the secure attachment category.Somewhat surprisingly, so might foreclosures—not because they are securely attached, butbecause they might be defensively reluctant tosay anything negative about their relationshipswith attachment figures. Moratoriums, currentlyexperiencing estrangement from early authorityfigures, should be lower than the achievementsand foreclosures. Diffusions, given previousfindings of perceived lack of acceptance byparental figures (Marcia, 1980), should scoreas the most insecurely attached identity statusgroup.Årseth, Kroger, Martinussen, and Marcia(2009) undertook a meta-analysis of the rela-tionship between identity status and attachmentstyle. Some 14 of 30 studies provided suffi-cient data to be included in analysis. Resultsindicated that the highest mean proportion ofsecure attachment was found within the iden-tity achieved status (0.55), and the lowest amongdiffusions (0.23). Only the achieved and diffuseidentity statuses did not have overlapping con-fidence intervals on secure attachment scores,and thus could be said to differ significantlyfrom each other. However, the achieved andforeclosed identity statuses had only marginallyoverlapping confidence intervals, suggesting apossible difference in the mean proportion ofsecurely attached individuals between these twostatuses as well. Mean correlations between iden-tity status and attachment styles were generallyweak (ranging from r =0.21 for the relationshipbetween secure attachment and identity achieve-ment through r = –0.02 for the relationshipbetween preoccupied attachment and identityachievement). Scores for the achieved and fore-closed identity statuses were, however, positivelycorrelated with the secure attachment style (r =0.21 and 0.10, respectively); the moratorium anddiffusion statuses were negatively correlated withthe secure attachment style (r = –0.14 and –0.23,respectively). Results suggest a stronger positive
  15. 15. 2 The Identity Statuses: Origins, Meanings, and Interpretations 45link between secure attachment and the commit-ted identity statuses than negative link betweensecure attachment and the uncommitted identitystatuses.Findings from continuous measures of adultattachment and identity status suggest that theconcept of “exploration” in adult attachment the-ory may have a somewhat different meaningthan “exploration” in identity theory. Explorationin adult attachment theory generally refers tosocial, intellectual, and environmental explo-ration, such as developing new interests, workingtoward new goals, and traveling (e.g., Hazan& Shaver, 1990). Exploration in identity the-ory involves active questioning for the purposeof arriving at commitments in individual val-ues, beliefs, and goals (Marcia et al., 1993). Inidentity theory, exploration is ideally a meansto an end, which is commitment. In attach-ment theory, however, exploration is describedas an ideal goal in itself. While the contents ofwhat might be explored in the two theoreticalapproaches may be similar, the process of explo-ration may hold different functions in attachmenttheory compared with identity theory. Researchon adult attachment has often drawn simple par-allels between infant and adult exploration (Elliot& Reis, 2003), and a more rigorous conceptual-ization of adult exploration and its role in adultattachment theory is needed (Hazan & Shaver,1990).Identity Status and ConsequentConditionsIntimacy. Erikson (1968) proposed that intimacyversus isolation is the psychosocial stage suc-ceeding, and dependent upon, resolutions to iden-tity versus role confusion. Orlofsky et al. (1973)and Orlofsky and Roades (1993) postulated thatthere may be qualitatively different styles ofintimacy, or intimacy statuses, as there are qual-itatively different styles of identity status reso-lutions. They conducted validation studies andprovided construct validity for the following inti-macy statuses: The intimate individual is charac-terized by having close friendships characterizedby depth and openness of communication, as wellas an exclusive, committed partner relationship.Pre-intimate individuals share the same open-ness and depth of communication with friends,but lack an exclusive partner relationship. Thepseudointimate individual has relationships withfriends that are more superficial in nature, lack-ing closeness and depth; these features may alsobe present in some exclusive partner relation-ships. Stereotyped individuals have relationshipswith friends that are characterized by the relation-ship qualities of the pseudointimate; however, thestereotyped individual lacks an exclusive partnerrelationship. Finally, the isolate may have a fewcasual associations, but generally withdraws fromsocial situations and contact with others.In line with Erikson’s (1968) epigenetic the-ory, the developmental ordering of the intimacystatuses should be closely associated with thedevelopmental ordering of the identity statuses:those with an achieved or moratorium identitystatus would be more likely to have an intimateor pre-intimate intimacy status than would thosewith a foreclosed or diffuse identity status. Oncontinuous identity status and intimacy measures,there should be a positive difference betweenhigh (identity achieved and moratorium) and low(foreclosure and diffuse) identity status individu-als on scale measures of intimacy. To paraphraseErikson (1968), in order to share oneself withanother, one must have a sufficiently secure senseof identity in order not to risk losing oneself in the(temporary) merger that an intimate relationshipinvolves.Årseth et al. (2009) have also undertaken ameta-analysis of the relationship between iden-tity status and intimacy. Some 21 of 31 studiesprovided sufficient data for further examination.Results indicated that the mean odds ratio forbeing in both a “high” (achievement and morato-rium) identity status and a “high” (intimate andpre-intimate) intimacy status was significantlyhigher for men than for women (p < 0.001). Some69% of males in high-exploring identity statuseswere also high in intimacy status, whereas only23% of males in low-exploring identity statuseswere high in intimacy status. For women, the pat-tern was different. Some 65% of high-exploring
  16. 16. 46 J. Kroger and J.E. Marciaidentity status women were also high in intimacystatus, whereas 46% of low-exploring identitystatus women were also high in intimacy sta-tus. Results from studies using scale measures ofintimacy indicated that the mean Hedges’ g formen, women, and the combined group (collaps-ing across gender) ranged from 0.30 to 0.41. Thisfinding represents a small difference between theintimacy scores of those in high- and low-identitystatus groups (Cohen, 1988).Results from categorical analyses suggest apositive relationship between identity and inti-macy statuses for the majority of men andwomen, supporting Erikson’s (1968) epigeneticconceptualization of personality development.Among women, however, nearly half of women“low” in identity status were also “high” in inti-macy status. Although Erikson (1968) does sug-gest that identity and intimacy may co-developfor women, reasons for the findings obtainedempirically require further investigation. The rel-atively small sample sizes involved in most ofthe meta-analytic results reported here stronglysuggest the need for further studies to exam-ine possible moderator effects of such contextualvariables as social climate and other situationalfactors. The impact of various support systemsfor identity exploration and consolidation hasbeen examined only infrequently in identity sta-tus research, and may be an important issue inunderstanding the phenomenon of why so manywomen rated “low” in identity status were alsorated “high” in intimacy status. This finding mayresult from greater relational responsibilities thatcharacterize women’s roles in many cultures.Identity Status and DevelopmentalPatterns of ChangeDevelopmental patterns of change. There hasbeen much discussion in the identity status litera-ture over the past decades about the developmen-tal nature of the identity statuses and whether ornot a developmental continuum underlies thesestatuses (Côté & Levine, 1988; Meeus, Iedema,Helsen, & Vollebergh, 1999; van Hoof, 1999).New research methods now exist that enablethe testing of identity status category ordersalong a developmental continuum. Al-Owidha,Green, and Kroger (2009) have addressed thepreliminary question of whether the identity sta-tuses can be empirically ordered in a theoret-ically optimal way through the use of Raschmodel threshold and scale statistics.4 All permu-tations of Marcia’s four identity status ratings,Loevinger’s (1976) ego development stage rat-ings, and Kegan’s (1982) self-other differentia-tion ratings were examined in data from a sampleof late adolescent and young adult participants.The optimal identity status category order foundwas diffusion to foreclosure to moratorium toachievement in two sets of analyses, and diffu-sion combined with foreclosure to moratoriumto achievement in two additional sets of analy-ses. Results supported the theoretically optimalidentity status category order, based on Erikson’s(1968) account of the identity-formation process.Kroger, Martinussen, and Marcia (2010) con-ducted a meta-analysis of investigations contain-ing longitudinal or cross-sectional data on iden-tity status movement or stability patterns overtime (some investigations had more than onestudy). These 124 investigations were limitedto adolescents (13–19 years) and young adults(20–36 years). A total of 72 studies containedsufficient data to be included in these analy-ses. These 72 developmental studies were furtherdivided into the following types for purposes ofmeta-analysis (with K indicating the numbers ofstudies): (1) Longitudinal studies with categoricalidentity status assessments (K = 11); (2) lon-gitudinal studies with continuous identity statusassessments (K = 1); (3) cross-sectional stud-ies with categorical assessments of identity status(K = 52); and (4) cross-sectional studies withcontinuous assessments of identity status (K = 9).A number of hypotheses were explored withrespect to each developmental subgroup. Basedon proposals from Waterman (1999), it wasanticipated that in Group 1, a preponderance ofprogressive rather than regressive developmentalmovements (D → F, D → M, D → A, F →M, F → A, M → A) would occur over time. Itwas also predicted that there would be movementout of the diffusion and foreclosure statuses and
  17. 17. 2 The Identity Statuses: Origins, Meanings, and Interpretations 47into the moratorium and achievement statuses.During adolescence and the transition to youngadulthood, it was anticipated that the identitydevelopment process would begin with foreclo-sure or diffusion. The years of late adolescence(18–25 years) were predicted to be associatedwith more transitions through the moratoriumstatus than other age ranges, and moratorium washypothesized to be the least stable of the identitystatuses. The mean time span covered by the lon-gitudinal studies in Group 1 was 3.0 years (SD= 2.6 years); 8 of the 11 studies focused on iden-tity status changes over the years of tertiary study,whereas two addressed changes between univer-sity study and 18 months–6 years post-university.The final study focused on changes in a sam-ple from the general population between ages27 and 36 years. Group 1 results generally sup-ported our hypotheses. However, there were alsorelatively large mean proportions of individualswho remained stable in their original identity sta-tuses over time (0.49). Stability was highest inthe committed (foreclosure and achievement) sta-tuses (0.53 and 0.66, respectively). There wasalso a relatively high mean proportion of indi-viduals who regressed (0.15) in identity statusmovement over time (i.e., A → D, A → F, A →M, M → D, M → F, F → D).Unfortunately, the number of studies in Group2 (K = 1) was too small for further analy-sis. With respect to Group 3 studies, a decreasein the mean proportions of identity diffuse andforeclosed youths was anticipated from mid tolate adolescence, alongside an increase in themean proportions of moratorium and achieve-ment identity statuses. From late adolescencethrough young adulthood, an initial drop in themean proportions of identity achieved and mora-torium youths was anticipated, followed by asubsequent increase in the mean proportionsof these two statuses over time. A concurrentincrease in the percentages of foreclosure anddiffusion youths was predicted from late adoles-cence through young adulthood, followed by asubsequent decrease in the mean proportions ofthese two statuses over time. These hypotheseswere generally supported for the patterns of iden-tity development through mid-late adolescence.From late adolescence through young adulthood,patterns of identity status change were more var-ied. As predicted, there was an initial drop inidentity achievement mean proportions followedby a general increase in identity achievementmean proportions through young adulthood. Themoratorium mean proportions peaked at age 19years (0.42), and then declined thereafter. Themean proportions of youths in foreclosure anddiffusion statuses were more varied through theuniversity years, but declined fairly steadily in the23–29 and 30–36 year age groups.It was hypothesized that Group 4 studies,where Hedges’ g served as the measure ofeffect size, would evidence a positive differ-ence between younger and older moratorium andachievement scores over time and a negative dif-ference between younger and older foreclosureand diffusion scores over time. Results were inthe predicted directions; moratorium and achieve-ment scores did increase over time, while fore-closure and diffusion scores decreased. However,in terms of Cohen’s (1988) criteria, all effectsizes were small (identity achievement, g = 0.17;moratorium, g = 0.24; foreclosure, g = –0.16;diffusion, g = –0.18).Considered together, findings from meta-analytic studies of identity status changereviewed in this section generally support theslow, evolutionary process of identity formationthat Erikson (1968) proposed some four decadesago. Further consideration, however, must begiven to regression in identity status movementsand the meanings that various forms of regres-sion may have in the identity-formation processof late adolescence and young adulthood. Thefact that approximately 15% of late adolescentsparticipating in longitudinal studies includedin these meta-analyses showed some form ofregressive movement suggests the need forfurther understanding of regression and its rolein the identity-formation process. Kroger (1996)suggested the possibility of three different typesof regressive identity status movements thatmay reflect different identity-related processes:(a) regressions of disequilibrium (A → M), (b)regressions of rigidification (A, M → F), and (c)regressions of disorganization (A, M, F → D).
  18. 18. 48 J. Kroger and J.E. MarciaAlthough regressions of disequilibrium may bevery adaptive in the ongoing process of identitydevelopment once initial identity decisions havebeen made and re-evaluations are undertaken,regressions of rigidification and regressions ofdisorganization are likely to be non-adaptivecauses for concern. Further research needs to beundertaken to understand conditions that maybe associated with each of these three forms ofregression, for each process will likely requirevery different strategies for intervention.Identity InterventionsResearch into intervention methods appropri-ate for facilitating identity development is inits infancy. In the mid-1980s, Marcia (1986)first described the possible implications that theidentity status paradigm held for interventionin educational and clinical settings. He warnedagainst requiring occupational or other majoreducational decisions in early adolescence, andhe made a plea that professional degree pro-grams should provide opportunities for the studyand exploration of ideas and values rather thanaccelerated degree acquisition. Marcia also dis-cussed forms of clinical intervention likely to beeffective with individuals in each identity sta-tus. Archer (1994) produced the first edited vol-ume that considered the implications of identityand identity status interventions across a widerange of contexts—from psychotherapy to thefamily, and from ethnic minority adolescents toeducational settings. Contributors to that volumereflected on a range of issues essential to inter-vention programs encouraging identity explo-ration and self-discovery. However, research onthe actual applications of identity and identitystatus interventions has begun only more recently.One of the first systematic attempts to assessresults of an intervention program aimed to facil-itate identity status development in late ado-lescence was undertaken by Markstrom-Adams,Ascione, Braegger, and Adams (1993). Theseresearchers introduced a short-term perspective-training program aimed particularly at increasingidentity exploration. However, their two studiesfailed to show significant results, and the authorsconcluded that it was difficult to promote sub-stantial identity development through short-termintervention programs. These results have beenlargely re-echoed through various doctoral stud-ies that have attempted to implement short-termstrategies to facilitate identity status change (e.g.,Edward, 1981; Hall, 1994; Wentz, 1986).More recently, intervention attempts have tar-geted areas such as knowledge, attitudes, andexploration/commitment dimensions of identityin marginalized youth. Ferrer-Wreder et al.(2002) examined the impact of a one-semesterintervention program for marginalized youthon the specific developmental domains ofskills/knowledge, attitudes, orientations, andexploration/commitment dimensions linked toidentity. Although immediate intervention gainswere apparent, these gains were not well-maintained over time. From these studies, itseems that identity exploration and consolida-tion requires time and readiness for developmentto proceed, and short-term intervention efforts(e.g., sessions over the course of several weeksor months) have, in general, not been particu-larly effective in facilitating long-term identitydevelopment.Very recent attempts have been made to exam-ine implications that the identity statuses hold forintervention by refining definitions of the statusesor the processes of exploration and commitmentto consider their interplay with adaptive or mal-adaptive forms of adjustment. Luyckx and col-leagues (e.g., Luyckx et al., 2008a; see Luyckxet al., Chapter 4, this volume) have attemptedto understand the association of identity explo-ration with both openness and distress. Theyhave expanded Marcia et al. (1993) identity sta-tus model by adding ruminative exploration as anew identity dimension, alongside exploration inbreadth and in depth. They found that ruminativeexploration was positively related to identity dis-tress and self-rumination, whereas the two formsof positive, reflective exploration were positivelyrelated to self-reflection. They have also differen-tiated between “carefree diffusion” and “diffuseddiffusion” statuses. In further research, Luyckxet al. (2008b) discuss some possible counseling
  19. 19. 2 The Identity Statuses: Origins, Meanings, and Interpretations 49implications from their findings that adaptiveand maladaptive levels of perfectionism weredifferentially linked with new identity statuses.They suggest that clinicians could attend specifi-cally to possible underlying levels of maladaptiveperfectionism to reduce dysfunctional identity-formation processes. Common to interventiontheory and research to date is the suggestion thatdifferential intervention strategies must to be tar-geted to individuals in each of the distinct identitystatuses.The Identity Statuses in Relationto Other Identity ModelsMarcia’s (1966; Marcia et al., 1993) identitystatus model has been one of the earliest andmost enduring systematic approaches used bysocial scientists to examine selected dimen-sions of Erikson’s (1968) adolescent identity-formation concept. Whereas Marcia and col-leagues (Marcia et al., 1993) have used suchpsychosocial domains as occupational, religious,political, family, and sexual values as indicatorsof global identity status, Skorikov and Vondracek(Chapter 29, this volume) have focused on theoccupational domain, alone, to examine occupa-tional identity status patterns of change over timeand its associations with other identity domains.Berzonsky (Chapter 3, this volume) uses a socialcognitive model of identity to describe threemodes by which individuals process, interpret,and make decisions regarding self-relevant infor-mation: informational, normative, and diffuse-avoidant. These modes have been strongly linkedwith Marcia’s (1966, Marcia et al., 1993) iden-tity statuses. Waterman (Chapter 16, this volume)uses the two philosophical metaphors of self-construction and self-discovery to address thequestion of how one knows which, among manyidentity alternatives, represents the “best choice”in making identity-related decisions. Buildingupon frameworks of the identity status paradigmand eudaimonistic philosophy, Waterman dis-cusses how these two metaphors contributeto a “well-lived” life. McAdams (Chapter 5,this volume) also draws upon Erikson’s (1968)identity writings to suggest that the configura-tion of the self is, in fact, a story or narrativethat the individual constructs in order to main-tain a sense of continuity over time and place.McAdams identifies how life stories can be inter-preted in terms of a number of identity themessuch as narrative tone, themes of agency andcommunion, ideological setting, and future scriptin order to understand the nature of an individ-ual’s identity. All of these major contributions tothe understanding of lifespan identity develop-ment have built upon and expanded dimensionsof Erikson’s (1968) identity-formation process,articulated over a half century ago.ConclusionsThis chapter has reviewed the ego psychoan-alytic origins of Marcia’s (1966) identity sta-tuses, as well as the early procedures used tovalidate the statuses. We have also commentedon the meanings that various methods for iden-tity status assessment may hold in relation tointerpreting data and in refining Eriksoniantheory. The chapter has also reviewed somerecent meta-analytic findings regarding a num-ber of the variables that have been examinedin relation to the identity statuses over the past40 years and has commented on some of thedevelopmental patterns of change that com-prise the identity-formation process for vari-ous groups of adolescents and young adults. Abrief history of intervention theory and empir-ical work aimed at facilitating adolescent andyoung adult identity development has beenundertaken, suggesting that methods must betargeted to individuals in particular identitystatuses in order for intervention to be effec-tive. Evidence was also reviewed suggestingthat short-term intervention efforts have failedto produce long-term gains. Additionally,recent empirical efforts to refine the identitystatuses have been reviewed, and their impli-cations for intervention have been discussed.Marcia’s (1966; Marcia et al., 1993) iden-tity status model has provided an enrichedunderstanding of identity-relevant constructsthat Erikson (1968) originally identified anddefined, as well as a deeper appreciation of
  20. 20. 50 J. Kroger and J.E. Marciathe difficulties and rewards offered by the ado-lescent and adult identity-formation process.The model continues to be as relevant andimportant today as it was in years past.Notes1. Studies described in the meta-analyseshave been drawn from a large database atUniveristy of Tromsø. Using PsycINFO,ERIC, Sociological Abstracts, andDissertation Abstracts International databases,researches first collected all English languagepublications and dissertations producedbetween the years January 1966 andDecember 2005 that used statistical anal-yses to provide data on the identity statusesand their patterns of change over time and/ortheir relationship to at least one additionalvariable. The following search terms wereused: Identity status, identity and Marcia,identity and Marcia’s, and ego identity.Dissertations that later appeared as publica-tions were eliminated from further analysis,except where the dissertation could supple-ment the publication with necessary statisticalinformation. Also eliminated were studiesthat used the same data, or part of the samedata, to address similar questions. Our initialdatabase was comprised of 565 empiricalinvestigations (287 publications and 278doctoral dissertations) that met these criteria.A coding sheet was developed for each ofthese investigations to provide a number ofdemographic details such as year of publica-tion, type of article (publication or doctoraldissertation), primary themes of study, mea-sure of identity status and its reliability, sam-ple size and gender distribution, mean age andage ranges for study sub-samples, and othersample characteristics. Six graduate students,trained by the first author, coded the vari-ables. From the larger database, 25% of thestudies were selected for a reliability assess-ment of agreement between two coders. Forcategorical variables, Kappa values rangedfrom 0.48 to 1.00, and the percent agreementranged from 79 to 85%. Pearson’s correla-tions for the remaining continuous variablesdescribed above ranged from 0.84 to 1.00.Disagreements were resolved by discussionbetween or among the coders.From this initial database of 565 empiricalinvestigations, study themes were examinedto identify those containing sufficient datafor further examination through techniques ofmeta-analysis. Meta-analysis is a statisticaltechnique that enables one to combine datafrom multiple studies for the purpose of iden-tifying a mean treatment effect (or effect size)(Hunt, 1997). Replacing the procedure of nar-rative literature reviews, meta-analysis holdsthe advantage of applying objective criteria forstudy selection and takes into account varyingsample sizes as well as the strength of resultsacross studies. Furthermore, meta-analysis is afar more statistically powerful technique com-pared with narrative literature reviews (Hunt,1997). All calculations were performed usingthe software program Comprehensive Meta-analysis (Borenstein & Rothstein, 1999).2. In terms of Cohen’s (1988) criteria, Hedges’ geffect sizes are defined in the following terms:large, g = 0.80; medium, g = 0.50; small, g =0.30. Cohen’s (1988) criteria for correlationaleffect sizes are defined as follows: large, r =0.50; medium, r = 0.30; small, r = 0.10.3. An odds ratio that deviates from 1 indicatesthat there is a relationship between the vari-ables. Confidence intervals for an odds ratiothat do not contain 1 indicate an average effectsize that is different from 1.4. The Rasch model, used here, enables a non-linear transformation of raw scores (here, cat-egory order) to create an interval scale mea-sure of an underlying trait. Rasch model stepand scale statistics are applied here to deter-mine an empirically optimal category orderfor a disputed developmental model (here,Marcia’s identity status categories) by exam-ining all permutations of ratings for the fouridentity statuses in combination with categori-cal ratings for two models describing relatedphenomena with a previously determinedcategorical order: Loevinger’s (1976) stages
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