Evolving identities: Contents and processes of identity development among people in their late twenties

by Johanna Carlsson

Institution: University of Gothenburg / Göteborgs Universitet
Year: 2015
Keywords: identity development; identity processes; identity contents; emerging adulthood; young adulthood; parenthood; work/family priorities
Record ID: 1327805
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/38723


The overall aim of this thesis was to study contents and processes of identity development among people in their late twenties. The studies are based on identity status interviews and surveys performed with participants in the GoLD (Gothenburg Longitudinal study of Development), at ages 25 and 29. Study I investigated Swedish emerging adults’ expectations regarding possible future parenthood through content analysis of identity status interviews with the 124 (58 women) participants who were not yet parents at age 25. Thematic analysis of the participants’ interview narratives in the identity domains of parenthood and work/family priorities showed that most participants were sure they wanted to become parents, but often just not right now. First they wanted a stable financial situation, a romantic relationship, and time for self-focus. More women than men talked about parenthood as a social norm and wanted to prioritize both work and family equally. More men than women wanted to prioritize either work or family, most often family over work. The women gave more examples of how they intended to solve potential work/family conflicts. Study I thus indicated that many Swedish emerging adults postpone, but do not reject, parenthood. Moreover, the results indicate that in emerging adulthood more women than men consider these aspects of their identities. Study II concerned the process of identity development between ages 25 and 29 among the 124 (63 women) participants who took part in the study at both ages. The study had a special focus on how people continue to evolve their identities after making identity commitments. Each of the four identity statuses (identity achievement, moratorium, foreclosure, and identity diffusion) was equally common at both ages. Stability in identity status was typical of individuals assigned to all statuses except moratorium. Further analysis of interview narratives from participants assigned to identity achievement or foreclosure at both interview occasions (n = 55), showed that relevant processes of continued identity development after commitments have been made are: the ways in which people approach changing life conditions, the extent to which they continue to engage in meaning making, and how they continue to develop their personal life direction. Identity achievement was connected to a deepening of the identity narrative on all three dimensions, whereas developmental patterns connected to foreclosure were more diverse. Study II thus showed how identity development continues in the late twenties, also beyond identity achievement. Moreover, the study indicated that further evolvement might be a key process through which an established sense of identity can stay adaptive and flexible. Study III compared two models commonly used to study identity development, the identity status model and the dual-cycle model, among the 123 (62 women) participants who completed both measures at age 29. These models are based on the same theoretical framework and use the same terminology, though the…