Erik Erikson, a psychoanalyst who studied with Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud’s daughter, developed a theory of psychosocial development that divides human development into eight stages. These eight stages mark eight crises or conflicts in their social relations with other people. Erikson proposed that the way these conflicts are resolved determines the nature of one’s development. In fact, these resolutions are development.
If the conflict is resolved positively, there is a positive outcome; if it is not resolved or is resolved negative, the outcome is unhealthy and impairs development.¹ Erikson argued that the primary crisis faced by adolescents is identity versus role confusion.¹ Failure to form an identity leaves a teenager confused about his or her role in life. Erik Erikson actually coined the term identity crisis.¹
James Marcia asserted that developing an identity crises consists of two components: crisis and commitment.¹
Crisis is a period during which an adolescent struggles intellectually to resolve issues related to personal values and goals.
Commitment is a decision based on consideration of alternative values and goals that lead to a specfic course of action.
Researchers such as Marcia have described Erikson’s identity crises as having four possible outcomes:¹
Achievement of identity after consideration of alternatives.
Moratorium is exploring options and leaving the crisis unresolved.
Foreclosure is when identity is achieved without exploration of alternatives.
Identity Diffusion is when there is no exploration of alternatives and no identity resolution.