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Identity and Psychological Distress in Emerging Adulthood in Sweden: Is It Always Distressing Not to Know Who to Be and What to Do?

Journal article
Authors Maria Wängqvist
Ann Frisén
Published in Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research
Volume 11
Pages 93-113
ISSN 1528-3488
Publication year 2011
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 93-113
Language en
Keywords identity formation, identity distress, psychological symptoms, emerging adulthood
Subject categories Psychology


The purpose of this study was twofold. The first aim was to explore the relationships between identity status, identity distress, and psychological symptoms. The second was to test a mediational model where identity distress was hypothesized to mediate a relationship between identity status and psychological symptoms. The study group comprised 136 emerging adults from Sweden (68 women, 68 men) of between 24 and 26 years of age. The results showed that experiencing moratorium was related to higher levels of identity distress as well as psychological symptoms. Measures of identity distress were associated with higher levels of psychological symptoms. Thus, there was support for the proposed mediational model. The results of this study indicate that, for some young people, the identity explorations of emerging adulthood can be accompanied by increased psychological symptoms, mediated by the experience of identity distress. However, for these emerging adults in Sweden, identity diffusion was not associated with identity distress and psychological symptoms.

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