Identity Formation Essay


Hi, I need you to write this essay and submit it within 4 hours. This is a Christian university and I have attached the textbook which you need to read to answer the question/prompt. Please try to not use complicated words, just keep the essay in basic English. Use your own/made-up experiences to answer/write if you have to. Read the question/prompt carefully. Thank you!

Use “(Cashion, 2019)” for citations. I will write references.

Topic: Identity Formation

Question/Prompt: Identity formation is one of the most important tasks of adolescence. For your thread:

  1. Choose one of three arenas of identity formation (faith, vocation, or politics).
  2. Within the arena you have chosen, describe some circumstances from your adolescence that impacted your journey to identity achievement.
  3. Consider James Marcia’s four specific coping strategies discussed in the text (role confusion, foreclosure, moratorium or achievement) and describe how they were or were not evident in your experience.
  4. Tell whether your faith hindered or helped your journey to identity achievement.

Your thread must be 250–400 words. Use information from the Textbook/Reading and Study materials for this module to complete this thread (at least two citations and a corresponding reference are required).

Identity Formation

Erikson: Identity versus Role Confusion

During Erikson’s fifth stage of psychosocial development, Identity versus Role Confusion, adolescents have two alternatives: They can either establish a clear and definite identity or experience role confusion, which is a failure to form a stable and secure identity (Erikson, 1950b, 1968). During this stage, adolescents are figuring out who they are and who they want to be. Understandably, this can be difficult for young men and women who are experiencing changes in almost every area of life.

Marcia’s Theory of Identity Formation

While Erikson spent his career examining ways in which we as individuals learn about ourselves through a series of crises, James Marcia theorized four identity statuses critical to identity development (Kroger & Marcia, 2011; Marcia, 2010). With a focus on adolescence (the time during which Erikson believed individuals struggle the most with identity), Marcia (1980) sees identity in terms of two distinct sets of criteria: crisis or commitment, present or absent. Marcia defines crisis as a period in which adolescents consciously choose between two alternatives. He defines commitment as a psychological investment in a course of action or an ideology. For example, you may have known what you wanted to study in college, enrolled in that major, and never had a second thought about it. Others may be unsure, trying out several majors before settling.

As a researcher, Marcia conducted long interviews with adolescents. Based on the information he gathered, he proposed *four different arenas within which identity is formed, and four separate statuses (also referred to as coping strategies).

Arenas of Identity Formation:

· Work/vocation

· Politics

· Faith/religion

· Gender roles*

Statuses or Coping Strategies for Identity Formation:

1. Identity diffusion. Marcia considered identity diffusion to be the least advanced status. It includes adolescents who have not formed and are not trying to form commitments; they tend to move from one thing to another. While these individuals may seem to be carefree, their lack of commitment impairs their ability to form close relationships. This stage is often characteristic of younger adolescents as well as older adolescents who drift through life and who can become alienated and rebellious.

2. Foreclosure. Individuals who fall in the foreclosure category make commitments without considering alternatives. Instead, they take the word of those around them, believing that they know what is best. These commitments are usually established early in life and are often based on the person’s identification with parents, teachers, or religious leaders who have made a strong impression on them. One example is someone who takes over a family business without considering any other options. These individuals are not necessarily unhappy, but they do have a tendency to display “rigid strength,” meaning they are happy and self-satisfied, but at the same time have a high need for social approval.

3. Moratorium. This third category refers to a person who is actively exploring alternatives in an attempt to make choices. Marcia (1980) believes that when individuals fall within this category of identity, they show relatively high anxiety and experience psychological conflict; however, they are often lively and appealing and want to have intimacy with others around them. These adolescents typically settle on an identity, but only after they have gone through the struggle.

4. Identity achievement. The last and final category reflects individuals who have successfully explored their options and have thought through what they want to be, who they are, and what they would like to do. This follows a period of crisis when they take some time to consider all of the various possibilities and then commit to the one that they feel best suits them. Adolescents who have reached this category tend to be psychologically happier, healthier, and higher in achievement, motivation, and moral reasoning.



It is important to note that some individuals may shift throughout these four categories. For example, an adolescent who does not question what he is going to do with his life and just takes over his father’s landscaping business may reassess that decision at a later time. For some individuals, identity formation does not occur only during adolescence but continues throughout their lifespan. However, for most people, identity comes together in their late teens or early 20s (Meesus, 2003; Duriez, Luyckx, Soenens, & Berzonsky, 2012).


*Until recently, gender identity focused mainly on gender role. Individuals might have questioned how they would express their gender, but (for the most part) they did not question their gender identity in biological terms. For example, the social changes of the 1960s and 1970s led many women to question traditional female roles. They asked, “Why should a woman restrict her choices to home-making, teaching, or nursing?” This led to an almost total elimination of employment restrictions based on biological sex.

Now adolescents face a much more complex situation related to gender and identity. Some in our culture state that biological sex is not as significant as how one feels about him or herself. Some individuals express disagreement between their physical/biological sex and their mental/emotional gender identification. As a result, they choose to assume a gender identity that is neutral (neither male or female) or that which is opposite of the gender indicated by DNA and external characteristics. On the other end of the spectrum are those who say that any attempt to deny one’s biological gender identity is at least misguided, or could quite possibly be an indication of a mental disorder.

So which opinion is correct? Although we will not attempt to resolve this issue here, we will examine empirical evidence related to this discussion: socialization, physical/biological factors, culture, and mental health. We will begin by defining some terms, then go on to examine a number of these issues.

Gender Socialization

To a certain extent, gender roles are established by societal norms. They are based on whatever a particular culture decides is appropriate for individuals within that society. This socialization process can dictate behavior, appearance, work, or even patterns of speech. As mentioned in a previous chapter, gender socialization starts early and continues throughout one’s lifespan. While a man may choose to function in a “traditional” male role or not, society will judge him based on the unwritten rules of what a man “ought” to look and act like. By the same token, a woman may choose to follow societal norms for female behavior, or she can choose to adopt behaviors that are generally considered more masculine. Here also she will be rewarded or punished for the way in which she complies with, or deviates from, the gender “rules” of her culture. As mentioned, over the past several decades, society has relaxed the boundaries that once separated gender roles related to work and family relationships. Now it is acceptable for men or women to pursue careers in either traditional or nontraditional roles. A woman can choose to be a nurse (traditional) or a military pilot (nontraditional). A man can choose to be a firefighter (traditional) or a stay-at-home parent (nontraditional). Very little (if any) negative reaction results from gender role choices such as this. However, individuals who do not conform in terms of gender identity face a much different set of circumstances.

Gender and Biology

Until recently one’s gender identity was synonymous with his or her biological sex. Individuals born with an “XY” chromosome arrangement and male genitalia were identified as male; those born with an “XX” chromosome arrangement and female genitalia were identified as female. While individuals might choose to express their gender by assuming either traditional or nontraditional roles (as described above), one’s identity as a male or female was not questioned. However, in the same way that we have come to agree that one’s biological gender is irrelevant in terms of gender role, some in society want to move toward a standard in which one’s biological gender is not relevant in gender identity either. It is argued that any designation related to gender should be fluid and left up to each individual’s interpretation.

Despite this widely publicized belief, empirical evidence indicates that gender differences are not just based on socialization or individual interpretation. Beyond the obvious differences in genitalia, researchers tell us there are other significant physical differences between males and females that are evident as early as the first days and weeks of one’s life. Here are just a few of them:

· Newborn female infants have slightly smaller upper body musculature and head circumference, and a significantly smaller spine than male infants (Ponratana et al., 2015).

· Researchers believe hormonal differences in the cord blood of newborn infants could signal a difference in basic body composition (Pardo, Geloneze, Tambascia, Pereira, & Filho, 2004).

· Of course there are also genetic differences that distinguish males and females.

Interestingly, in addition to these physical differences, researchers also found that infants (who are just a few hours old) demonstrate notable differences in sociability based on gender (Connellan, Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Batki, & Ahluwalia, 2000). In this study, female infants in the maternity ward showed a preference for interaction with people while male infants demonstrated a preference for a physical/mechanical object.

These are just a few examples of the ways in which we see that gender identification, while greatly influenced by society, also has a strong biological component.

Tolerance, Social Contagion, and Parental Responsibility

In most cases gender identification unfolds in a fairly predictable manner, with most children recognizing that they are male or female by about age 2. By age 3, most children begin to identify that some toys are for girls while others are for boys. Around this same time, children tend to prefer same-sex playmates.

However, this “predictable” pattern does not always unfold in this predictable manner; in some cases, children will assume the gender opposite of their natal or biological “assignment.” Situations such as this have increased dramatically. What has caused the recent surge in children and adolescents who identify as transgender individuals? Some say that society’s new tolerance of transgender identity has given these children and teens the courage to seek help in transitioning. From this perspective, the increase is all about awareness and acceptance (Weiler, 2015). Others urge caution, suggesting that the increase may be due to peer pressure or the “cool” factor that transgenderism has garnered in social media, in pop culture, and in the news (skepticaltherapist, 2016). Some have even labeled this phenomenon a “social contagion.” Given the fact that this is a recent development in our culture it would make sense to proceed with caution (Kaltiala-Heino, Bergman, Työläjärvi, & Frisén, 2018). It is undeniable that every person (whatever age) should be treated with respect and loved unconditionally. Parents should always provide support for their child(ren), but this does not mean that they must affirm every decision a child or adolescent makes. Remember that adolescence in particular is a time of experimentation and exploration. It is not unusual for a child who begins the transition to a new gender identity to change his or her mind and decide to make the difficult transition back to their natal gender. Research indicates that as many as 80% of children who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria before age 12 decide to return to their natal gender during adolescence (Steensma, T. D., McGuire, J. K., Kreukels, B. P. C., Beekman, A. J., & Cohen-Kettenis). Because of this fact, it is ill-advised to begin treatments that cannot be reversed.

Parents have a right and responsibility to provide guidance and wise counsel when such a life-altering change is being considered. Any type of permanent transition should be delayed until the child is old enough to make an informed decision (in some states this age of consent is 16; in terms of cognitive maturity we have seen that from a developmental perspective in might be better to wait until the mid-20s). Clearly, irreversible surgery should be delayed. Hormone treatments can be life-altering as well due to the fact that they can cause sterility. With all the questions that remain unanswered about the long-term impact of transitioning therapies, parents are urged to exercise care and caution if faced with a son or daughter who declares him or herself a transgender person. Along with the lack of evidence related to long-term impact is the serious nature of the social and physical ramifications a young man or woman will face if they choose to transition. Two final areas to examine are spiritual issues and mental health concerns related to gender identity.

Spiritual Development and Gender Identity

Spiritual development comes into play here as well, as people of faith are also divided on this issue. Some churches and denominations communicate an “open and affirming” stance toward transgender individuals, believing that each person has the right to express whatever gender he or she deems most appropriate. More conservative congregations, while willing to accept transgender individuals, typically view gender in strictly biological terms. Gender fluidity/confusion is seen as a choice individuals make. Many individuals (both within the church and outside the church) still agree with the diagnostic criteria used up until 2013 which identified individuals who expressed “a strong and persistent cross-gender identification, which is the desire to be, or the insistence that one is, of the other sex” and “evidence of persistent discomfort about one’s assigned sex or a sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex” as having a mental illness called gender identity disorder (APA DSM-IV, p. 576).

Gender Dysphoria and Mental Health Concerns

The DSM-V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), released in 2014, removed the designation of gender identity disorder and instead inserted gender dysphoria, defined as “a condition in which there is a marked difference between the individual’s expressed/experienced gender and the gender others would assign him or her …” (Gender dysphoria, 2013). Mark Yarhouse, a noted scholar in the field of gender identity, provides these definitions:

‘Gender identity’ is simply how people experience themselves as male or female, including how masculine or feminine they feel. ‘Gender dysphoria’ refers to deep and abiding discomfort over the incongruence between one’s biological sex and one’s psychological and emotional experience of gender . . . When a person reports gender identity concerns that cause significant distress, he or she may meet criteria for a gender dysphoria diagnosis. (Yarhouse, 2015)

Although questions about one’s gender no longer qualifies as a mental disorder, it is important to note that many individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria also suffer with depression, substance abuse, self-harm, and suicidal ideation (Kaltiala-Heino, Bergman, Työläjärvi, & Frisén, 2018).

Opinion is split on why the rate of mental health issues is so high among those who identify as transgender people. Some say this can be explained by the minority stress model (mental health issues are caused by discrimination, harassment, bullying, and a general lack of support). Others believe that existing mental health concerns are the things that drive a person to seek gender transition as a remedy for the condition. For example, in the case of depression, an individual does not become depressed because of transgender discrimination, they consider gender transition as a means of relieving the depression that is already present. Sadly, some research indicates that depression returns a short time after one’s gender reassignment process has been completed. While individuals experienced immediate relief from depression, they soon find that surgery did not resolve the underlying issues (Dhejne et al., 2011).

Final Thoughts

To summarize, first and foremost we must always remember that adolescents need the support of parents, teachers, and other caring adults in any and every circumstance. Adults should remember, however, that adolescence is a time of exploration and experimentation. Not every idea considered in adolescence will persist into adulthood. While the cultural tide seems to be drawing more young men and women toward acceptance of and participation in gender identity experimentation, we should exercise caution due to the life-changing impact of gender transitioning. There are social, emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical issues that must be thoughtfully considered.*