Agnes, my first cousin, joined junior high at the age of 13. Before joining junior high, Agnes always kept her hair short. She also used to wear long dresses to the delight of the parents and neighbours who found her a role model for their children. However, soon after getting to high school, things changed almost instantly to the amazement of her parents and the immediate society. Agnes started keeping her hair long at the end of the first term of freshman year. After that, she began dying her hair red. Also, Agnes began wearing miniskirts. Apart from miniskirts, she began experimenting with other clothes e.g. hipsters as she sought for her perfect match. With these changes, she felt comfortable and would always ask her friends for compliments. However, to her parents, this was the worst thing to have ever happened to their daughter.
These changes resulted in conflict between Agnes and her parents. The parents saw this as an onset of moral decadence. Her parents had to book a guidance and counselling session for Agnes with a local pastor, but Agnes vehemently refused this arrangement. She saw this as an attack on her way of life, the life she chose. Having declined to undergo guidance and counselling, her parents threatened not to pay for her high school fees. The parents thought by threatening her, Agnes could revert to her former way of life. However, the threat never worked. She stopped listening to her parents and vowed never to change her mind at whatever cost. Agness change and behaviour, which was considered rebellious and radical, was a nightmare for her parents. At one point, a heated argument between Agnes and her mother over her behaviour got physical. She was beaten up. Her deeply religious mother believed that her change in behaviour was as a result of their failure to discipline her. This never worked too. Eventually, the parents had to give up.
Apart from the changes in dressing and hairstyles, Agnes choice of major in high school got her parents infuriated. Since her childhood, Agness parents had wished to see their daughter take a course in human surgery upon completion of her senior high and later on manage the familys hospital business. Agnes never objected her parents choice when she was in primary school. However, she changed her mind in the second year of high school. She attributed the change to her what she referred to as her future interests. Thus instead of majoring in sciences, she chose art-based subjects. She attributed her choice to high performance and high-quality grades in these subjects as opposed to sciences which she used to perform dismally. Her strength in art-based subjects and more specifically music made her to finally settle on a degree in music upon completion of her high school education. This pushed her parents to the wall, but they finally had to accept their daughters wish.
The conflict between Agnes and her parents reached its peak in her third year of high school education. Trouble started when Agnes refused to attend Sunday church services citing a change in religious perspective. Before this, she was the pastors favourite and used to lead her peers in Bible studies. However, after deep soul searching, she converted to atheism. This shocked her parents and church members shock and was negatively received by her immediate neighbours.
Despite the negative perception from her parents and the immediate society regarding her new way of life, Agnes never got depressed or annoyed. She pressed on with her academic life as if everything was normal. She remained steadfast and hardworking in her academics. Her efforts finally paid off as she emerged the best in the exam at the end of her four-year course. Agnes exemplary performance made her parents shed the negative perception they had developed towards her. Finally, Agnes got what she had always wished for her parents support for her dream course (Music). With her parents help, she proceeded to college for a Bachelors in Music. I think that Agness experiences can be explained in terms Ericksons Theory of Psychosocial Development (Identity vs. Role Confusion) and Marcia's Identity Statuses.
Ericksons theory of psychosocial development (identity vs. role confusion)
Ericksons theory of development has its roots in Sigmund Freuds theory of psychosexual development. Erickson, in his theory, proposes that an individual forms his identity by undergoing through eight different crises. The crises are based on a dichotomous set of experiences a person has with the outer world. His main argument was that individuals learn through conflict. If a person emerges from each of these stages with a positive outlook on life as opposed to a negative outlook, he or she grows into adulthood as a happy and healthy person. Ericksons eight stages in order are: Trust vs. Mistrust (which occurs in infancy), Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt (takes place in toddlerhood), Initiative vs. Guilt (exhibited by pre-schoolers), Industry vs. Inferiority (experienced by school-aged children), Identity vs. Role Confusion (in adolescence stage), Intimacy vs. Isolation (in early adulthood), Generativity vs. Stagnation (in middle age), and Integrity v. Despair (in maturity age).
Identity vs. Role Confusion is the fifth stage of Eriksons theory of psychosocial development. The stage occurs in adolescence (between the ages of 13 and 19). The task an adolescent has at hand during this stage is realizing ego identity and avoiding role confusion. According to Erickson, ego identity is knowing oneself and how one fits into the larger society. There are two types of identities an adolescent sets to achieve at this stage: occupational and sexual identity.
As adolescents move from childhood to adulthood, they start thinking about the roles they will play as adults. Initially, they are unsure of these roles and thus, experience what Erickson described as role confusion. Role confusion is diverse ideas and feelings regarding the specific ways adolescents think they will fit into the larger society. This is exhibited by the adolescent experimenting a broad range of behaviours and activities. For instance, the child at this stage may start associating himself or herself with particular religious groups, listening to a certain genre of music, or affiliating oneself with a certain political group. According to Erickson, most adolescents are capable of achieving their identity at the end of this stage. As a result, they get to know themselves fully as well as the directions their lives are taking. However, failure to achieve a sense of identity within a particular society results in role confusion.
Erickson also pointed out that an individual at this stage may feel uncomfortable about their body. However, the discomfort is short-term and eventually, the adolescent adapts to their body changes. When this is accomplished, one will attain the virtue of fidelity as he or she goes into adulthood. Fidelity is a term used to describe an individuals ability to commit himself or herself to others regarding accepting others, even when they possess different ideologies from ones own.
Marcia's identity statuses
According to James Marcia, the identity of an individual can be viewed as structured beliefs, abilities, and past experiences about ones self. Marcia pointed out that people with well-developed structures (i.e. beliefs, abilities, and past experiences) tend to appear to be their own and, therefore, are more likely to own their strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, those with poorly developed structures appear confused regarding their uniqueness from others. Consequently, these group of individuals relies more on the outer world to evaluate themselves. Identity is an ever-changing psychological structure. Once a persons identity has been formed in adolescence, there are chances for further changes as one progresses through adulthood.
Marcia's Identity Statuses can be described as a continuation of Ericksons work on identity. Marcias model describes the development of an individuals identity in terms of acquisition of sexual orientation, values and ideals, and occupational direction. An individual whose identity is fully developed is capable of recognising his or her strengths, weaknesses, and distinctiveness from others. However, people with poorly-developed identity have the poor articulation of ones self and are not able to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses.
Marcia, in his quest to understand the formation of identity, carried out interviews with young people. The participants in this study were asked whether they had committed themselves to a specific occupation or ideology and whether they had experienced, or were undergoing, a decision-making process at that particular time. From his research work, Marcia developed a model of identity. This model has four identity statuses: foreclosure, diffusion, moratorium, and achievement. Each of these statuses relates to a stage on the path to identifying and establishing a commitment to an ideology.
Even though, these statuses are not hierarchical the lowest is identity diffusion. An individual at this stage has not started exploring a particular ideology and, therefore, has no commitment to a particular ideology. The individual might have undergone through a major crisis in life but is yet to react to it. In some instances, may not have experienced an identity crisis. A person at this stage is flighty, highly unreliable, and self-centred. Such characteristics are regarded as normal in young children but should not exist once an individual hits adolescence and adulthood. However, if diffusion is not shed by adulthood an individual will have low self-esteem, highly disorganized, and unethical. Also, such individuals tend to be withdrawn, cautious about their peers, and are not well received by others.
The next identity status after identity diffusion is foreclosure. During this stage, a young person has not done exploration and has not experienced any crisis. Such individuals take an identity presented to them by their parents or other people in authority and commit themselves to such identities. For instance, young people at this stage may allow their parents to choose for them their future careers. This is common at a young age and often in early adulthood, children, especially from wealthy family backgrounds, readily accept the preformed identities given to them by their parents.
Individuals in moratorium status are starting to explore their identities but are yet to commit themselves to a particular ideology. They are in the process of experimenting and identifying a set of ideas and believes they can regard as their own. At this stage, individuals are anxious, have high self-esteem, show sophistication in culture, develop deep relationships, and are well received by their peers. They also show rebellion and acceptance and have their behaviour internally oriented. At this stage, individuals experience identity crisis but are forward moving towards reaching a particular identity and making commitments.
Marcias last stage of identity is referred to as achievement. An individual at this stage has experienced identity crisis and made commitments needed for attaining a sense of identity. Such a person has established a particular ideology that befits him or her. Also, an individual has identified and settled on beliefs and values that he or she wants to be identified with. The characteristics of individuals at this achievement stage are high self-esteem and are well-received by their peers.
Agness experience and Ericksons theory of psychosocial development (identity vs. role confusion)
Agness experience can be interpreted using Ericksons identity vs. role confusion stage o...
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