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Associations between identity status, identity distress and psychological symptoms

Conference paper
Authors Maria Wängqvist
Ann Frisén
Published in Paper presented at the 12th Biennal Conference for the European Association for Research on Adolescence, Vilnius, Lithuania, 12-15 may 2010
Publication year 2010
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords identity formation, emerging adulthood, identity distress
Subject categories Psychology


Background: In most industrial and post-industrial countries identity formation has been expanded to apply not only to adolescence but the subsequent period of emerging adulthood as well. Identity formation may affect a person's well-being and the purpose of this study was to explore the associations between identity formation, identity distress and psychological symptoms in emerging adulthood. Method: The study group was 136 emerging adults from Sweden (65 women, 71 men), 24-26 years old. The participants were interviewed and filled out paper-and-pencil measures designed for the study of identity formation (Marcia's Ego-Identity Status Interview), identity distress (the Identity Distress survey) and psychological symptoms (the Symptom Checklist-90). Results: Active identity exploration (the moratorium identity status) was found to be related to higher levels of identity distress as well as psychological symptoms. Measures of identity distress were also found to be associated with higher levels of psychological symptoms. Additionally, 7.4% (n = 10) of the participants matched the criteria for identity disorder and 17.6% (n = 24) matched the criteria for identity problems. Gender differences were found only with regards to identity formation but not for the other two variables (i.e.; identity distress and psychological symptoms). The women were more likely to be categorized to identity achievement and the men were more likely to be categorized to identity diffusion. Conclusions: The results of this study implies that for some young people the identity exploration that signifies emerging adulthood can be accompanied by increased distress over identity issues as well as increased psychological symptoms. Additionally, the results showed that some young people experience clinically significant distress over identity issues.

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