Identity and personality development with a focus on early adulthood

Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis was to investigate identity and personality development with a focus on early adulthood. The aim of Study I was to investigate identity development across early adulthood at three measurement points, ages 25, 29 and 33 (N=118). A sequential mixed-methods design was used, and the data analysis was thus performed in different steps. First, quantitative investigations of stability and change in identity status revealed some group-level changes over time, with fewer individuals in the moratorium status (i.e., current exploration of identity) and more individuals in the identity achievement status (i.e., identity exploration before establishing commitments). However, typical and atypical patterns of individual stability and change between adjacent waves showed that stability in identity status development with established commitments (i.e., identity achievement and foreclosure) across early adulthood were by far the most common patterns. In the second step, in order to understand the underlying processes of these stable patterns, the patterns were examined through qualitative analyses. In this part, the two dominant perspectives of identity development were combined: the identity status model and the narrative approach. Qualitative analysis of the narratives from the status interviews of each participant’s development from age 29 to 33 revealed three processes of identity development: Approach to Change, Narrative Coherence, and Participation in a Broader Life Context. This study demonstrated that there are significant changes within stable identity status patterns, and that identity development in early adulthood requires individuals to reflect, adjust, and evolve their identity. The aim of Study II was to explore the developmental course and implications of ego resiliency and control from childhood (starting at age 2) to early adulthood (age 33). The sample consisted of 139 participants, who were assessed nine times between ages 2 and 33. The developmental course and implications of the personality meta-traits ego resiliency (i.e., the individuals’ capacity to adjust to their environment) and ego control (i.e., level of impulse restraint) were examined. In general, the rank-order stability of proximal waves was consistently high for ego resiliency and ego control. Further, latent growth curve models were used to examine mean-level stability and change in ego resiliency and control. These analyses showed that ego resiliency displayed high stability over time. Ego control demonstrated stability over the full time span, but there was greater change in childhood relative to adolescence and adulthood. Analyses with intercepts and slopes of ego resiliency and ego control as predictors of adult well-being at age 33 showed associations with well-being, but these associations were generally accounted for by the Big Five traits. Finally, ego resiliency and control in childhood and adolescence were, albeit to a lesser extent, associated with adult identity development with regard to commitments and ego resiliency to previous exploration. This study shows that the meta-traits of ego resiliency and control are fairly stable personality constructs from childhood to adulthood and also highlights their association with adult adaptation, which also suggests that personality traits may give an early indication of identity processes. In conclusion, this thesis shows how identity and personality – two central aspects of development – evolve over time, as well as how these aspects of development are related. The two studies of this thesis focus especially on the period of early adulthood, and demonstrate processes of how people maintain their identity and how earlier development can influence adaptation in early adulthood.

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