“Who am I?” Identity formation as a core developmental task across the life span
“Who am I?” is the core question that accompanies each human being throughout his or her entire life. Addressing this question is particularly challenging since it implies the synthesis of a number of different answers related to multiple life domains. In fact, the question “Who am I?” entails a number of sub-questions, such as “What kind of occupation do I want to pursue? What are my religious values? What are my political opinions? In which interpersonal relationships do I want to invest? To which social groups do I belong? How do I feel in relationship to my ethnicity?” and so on. Therefore, identity formation implies choosing meaningful commitments in a number of relevant different life domains.
This keynote will address three main issues. First, I will present recent theoretical developments of the identity field, showing how process-oriented identity models can capture the dynamic by which identity is formed and revised over time in multiple life domains. Second, I will focus on the centrally of identity for psychosocial development and well-being, discussing individual (e.g., personality, internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors, positive well-being), interpersonal (e.g., family and peer relationships), and societal (e.g., social responsibility, civic engagement) correlates of identity. Third, I will discuss the role of culture on identity development by examining ethnic and national differences in the degree of identity stability and by unraveling how identity processes and statuses might be more or less adaptive across different cultural contexts. In addressing each aspect, I will focus strongly on longitudinal studies and highlight methodological remarks relevant for the identity field (e.g., distinction between variable-centered and person-centered approaches, testing of cross-cultural measurement invariance). Finally, practical implications and future lines of directions will be discussed.