Self Identity Development

This page will review the following theories:

  • Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development
  • Marcia’s Ego Identity Statuses
  • Josselson’ s Theory

Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development (1980)

  • Trust vs. Mistrust (Infants, 0 to 1 year)
    • The first stage of Erik Erikson’s theory centers around the infant’s basic needs being met by the parents.
  • Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt (Toddlers, 1 to 3 years)
    • As the child gains control over eliminative functions and motor abilities, they begin to explore their surroundings. The parents still provide a strong base of security from which the child can venture out to assert their will.
  • Initiative vs. Guilt (Preschool, 3 to 6 years)
    • Initiative adds to autonomy the quality of undertaking, planning and attacking a task for the sake of being active and on the move. The child is learning to master the world around them, learning basic skills and principles of physics.
  • Industry vs. Inferiority (Childhood, 6 to 12 years)
    • “Children at this age are becoming more aware of themselves as individuals.” They work hard at “being responsible, being good and doing it right.” They are now more reasonable to share and cooperate.
  • Identity vs. Role Confusion (Adolescents, 13 to 19 years)
    • The adolescent is newly concerned with how they appear to others.
  • Intimacy vs. Isolation (Young Adults, 20 to 40 years)
    • They become capable of forming intimate, reciprocal relationships (e.g. through close friendships or marriage) and willingly make the sacrifices and compromises that such relationships require.
  • Generativity vs. Stagnation (Middle Adulthood, 45 to 65 years)
    • Generativity is the concern of establishing and guiding the next generation. Socially-valued work and disciplines are expressions of generativity.
  • Ego Integrity vs. Despair (Seniors, 65 years onwards)
    • As we grow older and become senior citizens we tend to slow down our productivity and explore life as a retired person. It is during this time that we contemplate our accomplishments and are able to develop integrity if we see ourselves as leading a successful life.

Stevens, Richard. (1983). Erik Erikson, An Introduction. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Marcia’s Ego-identity Status (1996)

  • This stage consists neither of identity resolution nor identity confusion as Erikson claimed, but is better understood as the extent to which one has both explored and committed to an identity in a variety of life domains including politics, occupation, religion, intimate relationships, friendships, and gender roles. This theory states that there are two distinct parts contributing to the achievement of adolescent identity: a time of choosing or crisis, and a commitment.
  • Foreclosure
    • The foreclosure status is when a commitment is made without exploring alternatives.
    • Identity Diffusion
      • Some adolescents become overwhelmed by the task of identity development and neither explore nor make commitments; individuals who have neither explored nor made commitments across life-defining areas.
    • Moratorium
      • Identity moratorium is the status of individuals who are in the midst of a crisis but whose commitments are either absent or are only vaguely defined.
    • Identity Achievement
      • Once a crisis has become, ‘a likely progression would be from diffusion through moratorium to identity achievement. The latter is thus the status of individuals who have typically experienced a crisis, undergone identity explorations and made commitments.

Marcia, “Ego-status Identity.”

Josselson’s Theory (1971)

  • The theory is centered around the idea to understand identity formation in women
  • Four pathways are described under Josselson’s Theory:
  • Foreclosures: Purveryors of the Heritage (Guardians)
    • Women move into adulthood with a commitment to identity without experiencing any identity crisis
    • Identity Achievements: Pavers of the Way (Pathmakers)
      • Women move away from their childhood identity and create a unique and distinct identity
    • Moratoriums: Daughters of the Crisis (Searchers)
      • Women are in a constant state of exploration with their identity
      • Family values and a sense of rightness can be found within this pathway, but will test the waters to see how far they can come to crossing a the line between right and wrong
    • Identity Diffusions: Lost and Sometimes Found (Drifters)
      • Women in this pathway represent four patterns:
        • Severe Psychopathology
          • Women in this pattern have had previous unresolved, emotional stress
        • Previous Development Deficits
          • In this pattern women are unable to make commitments because of unreliability in previous interactions
        • Moratorium Diffusion
          • Women in this pattern are heavily exploring and cannot grasp the meaning of life’s perplexities
        • Foreclosed Diffusion
          • Women in this pathway are characterized as neither struggling or committed to an identity

This page was written and created by Andrew Mason. Please use the comment section below to ask questions, provide reflection, discussion and/or feedback. To contact directly about this page, please see Andrew Mason at


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