I joined junior high at the age of 13. Before joining junior high, I always kept my hair short and wore long dresses. This delighted my parents as well as my neighbours who saw me as their childrens role model. However, soon after getting admitted to high school, I realized that my hairstyle and dressing style no longer impressed me, and had to change. I started keeping my hair long at the end of freshman year. After that, I began dying my hair red, but my friends never liked it. I, later on, changed to blue. I also got rid of my long dresses and started wearing miniskirts. Apart from miniskirts, I began experimenting with other clothes e.g. hipsters as I sought for my perfect match. With these changes, I felt comfortable and would always ask my friends for compliments. However, to my parents, this was the worst thing to have ever happened to their daughter.
These changes resulted in conflict between my parents and me. My parents saw this as an onset of moral decadence. As a result, they sought guidance and counselling sessions for me with a local pastor, but I vehemently refused this arrangement. I saw this as an attack on my way of life, the life I chose. Having declined to undergo guidance and counselling, my parents threatened not to pay my high school fees. They thought by threatening me; I could revert to my former way of life. However, the threat never worked. I stopped listening to my parents and vowed never to change my mind at whatever cost. My change in behaviour, which was considered rebellious and radical, was a nightmare for my parents. At one point, a heated argument between my parents and I over my new lifestyle got physical. I was beaten up. My deeply religious mother believed that my change in behaviour was as a result of their failure to discipline me. This never worked too. Eventually, my parents had to give up.
Apart from the changes in dressing and hairstyles, my choice of major in high school got my parents infuriated. Since my childhood, my parents had wished to see me take a course in human surgery upon completion of my senior high and later on manage my familys hospital business. I never objected my parents choice when I was in primary school. However, I changed my mind in the second year of high school. A wide range of subjects in high school gave me an opportunity to explore my academic interests further. In my first year, I was torn between majoring in sciences and arts but at the end of the second year, I chose art-based subjects. I decided to take a major in arts due to my excellent performance and high-quality grades in these subjects as opposed to sciences which I used to perform dismally. My prowess in art-based subjects, and more specifically music, made me want to pursue a degree in music upon completion of my high school education.
The conflict between my parents and I reached its peak in my third year of high school education. Trouble started when I refused to attend Sunday church services because of my change in religious perspective. Before this, I was the pastors favourite and used to lead my peers in Bible studies. However, after deep soul searching, I converted to atheism. This shocked my parents, church members, and was negatively received by my immediate neighbours.
Despite the negative perception of my parents and the immediate society regarding my new way of life, I never got depressed or annoyed. I pressed on with my academic life as if everything was normal. I remained steadfast and hardworking in my academics. My efforts finally paid off as I emerged the best in my final exams. My exemplary performance made my parents shed the negative perception they had developed towards me. Finally, I got what I had always wished for my parents support for I dream course (Music). With my parents help, I proceeded to college for a Bachelors in Music. I think that my experiences in adolescence can be explained in terms Ericksons Theory of Psychosocial Development (Identity vs. Role Confusion) and Marcia's Identity Statuses.
Section II: Part One - Erickson's 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 grow 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 achieved 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 want to be identified with. The characteristics of individuals at this achievement stage are high self-esteem and are well-received by their peers.
Section II: Part Two
a) My high school experiences as interpreted using Ericksons theory of psychosocial development
My experience can be interpreted using Ericksons identity vs. role confusion stage of psychosocial development. According to Erickson, identity involves knowing ones self, what one believes in and how one...
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