As we go from childhood to adulthood the period in between becomes very essential to find out how we are.

Yes, I’m talking about our adolescent years.

We start developing who we are or whom we want to be identified as within our childhood itself. The major socio-emotional development that initially takes place is our self, gender and moral development.

A psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg interviewed children and presented them with stories in which characters faced moral dilemmas. They were asked what the character should do and why.

He observed that children approached what is right and wrong differently at different ages. And the young child, before 9 years of age, thinks in terms of external authority.

The identity of children is highly dependent upon authority figures.

As we grow up and enter our adolescence years, the hunt for identity becomes more prominent.

We question our beliefs, values and societal norms.

We ask questions like: “Who am I?“, “What do I wanna do in life?” or “Do I believe in God?

All these things define who we are and what our values, commitment and beliefs are.

The number one thing we do is that we try to separate our identity from our parents.

This leads us to detach ourselves from our parents and develop a personalised set of beliefs that is uniquely our own.

This also causes conflict between us and our parents, and conflict within ourselves as well.

Our identity formation is influenced by many factors such as our culture, family, socioeconomic status, ethnic background, etc.

We start to give less importance to our family relationships and spend more time outside our hope and develop a strong need for peer support and acceptance.

Our peers provide us with social skills and social behaviours.

Sometimes conflict with parents leads to increased identification with peers. Yet, our peers and parents play complementary roles to fulfil our different needs.

Teenagers do seek independence yet are highly dependent on their parents for most things.

You might be thinking, what if someone wasn’t able to form an identity?

According to Erik Erikson, the main task of adolescents is to solve the crisis of identity versus role confusion.

It is the fifth stage eight of psychosocial development that takes place between the age of 12 and 19.

Teenagers who aren’t able to explore their identities or have developed conflicting identities might lead to what Erikson referred to as Role Confusion.

They aren’t sure of who they are or where they fit in. Unsure about their job or relationships and feel disappointed and confused about their place in life.

What are some of the benefits of forming an identity?


Having a clear sense of self leads to self-confidence as they start to trust their abilities, qualities, and judgments.


It leads us to commit to a particular identity. And we start to commit to a particular career path, and what group we want to be associated with and also develop a particular sense of style.

Sense of independence

Those who get encouragement and reinforcement through their exploration, learn how to trust themselves and develop a sense of independence and control.


Those who are successful develop fidelity, a psychological virtue characterized by the ability to relate to others and form genuine relationships. [1]


Identity-seeking is an essential part of growing up into an adult. It causes a lot of conflict with others and oneself as well, but it’s important for the overall development of a teenager.

Yet, many teenagers aren’t given the support and reinforcement to establish a sense of self. Sometimes they face torments from their caregivers or peer groups which can lead to role confusion.




NCERT Class 11 Psychology

[1] Identity vs Role Confusion