Daily identity dynamics in adolescence shaping identity in emerging adulthood: An 11-year longitudinal study on continuity in development

Andrik Becht, SN Nelemans, SJT Branje, WAM Vollebergh, WHJ Meeus

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Abstract

According to identity theory, short-term day-to-day identity exploration and commitment processes are the building blocks for long-term development of stable commitments in emerging adulthood. This key assumption was tested in a longitudinal study including 494 individuals (43% girls, M age T1 = 13.31 years, range 11.01–14.86 years) who were followed from adolescence into emerging adulthood, covering ages 13 to 24 years. In the first five years, adolescents reported on their daily identity processes (i.e., commitment, reconsideration and in-depth exploration) across 75 assessment days. Subsequently, they reported on their identity across four (bi-) annual waves in emerging adulthood. Findings confirmed the existence of a dual-cycle process model of identity formation and identity maintenance that operated at the within-person level across days during adolescence. Moreover, individual differences in these short-term identity processes in adolescence predicted individual differences in identity development in emerging adulthood. Specifically, those adolescents with low daily commitment levels, and high levels of identity reconsideration were more likely to maintain weak identity commitments and high identity uncertainty in emerging adulthood. Also, those adolescents characterized by stronger daily changes in identity commitments and continuing day-to-day identity uncertainty maintained the highest identity uncertainty in emerging adulthood. These results support the view of continuity in identity development from short-term daily identity dynamics in adolescence to long-term identity development in emerging adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1616-1633
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Volume50
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

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