Moratorium - Status of Identity


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Eriksonian researcher James Marcia (1980, 1994) proposes that Erikson’s theory of identity development contains four statuses of identity, or ways of resolving the identity crisis: identity diffusion, identity foreclosure, identity moratorium, and identity achievement.

The search for an identity during adolescence is aided by a psychosocial moratorium, Erikson’s term for the gap between childhood security and adult autonomy. 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. They often begin to question their ideas and beliefs.

During this period, society leaves adolescents relatively free of responsibilities and able to try out different identities. Adolescents search their culture’s identity files, experimenting with different roles and personalities. They may want to pursue one career one month (say lawyer) and another career next month (say doctor, actor, or astronaut). They may dress neatly one day, sloppily the next. This experimentation is a deliberate effort on their part to find out where they fit in the world.

A recent meta-analysis of 124 studies revealed that identity moratorium status rose steadily to 19 years of age and then declined. (Kroger, Martinussen, & Marcia, 2010).

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Life-Span Development, John W. Santrock (Click for eBook)
Theories of Developmental Psychology, Patricia Miller
Child Development, Neil J. Salkind

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