Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 703–716 | Cite as

Friends and Education: Identity Patterns across Domains and Associations with Emotion Dysregulation and Identity Disturbance

  • Shawna Mastro CampbellEmail author
  • Melanie J. Zimmer-Gembeck
  • Amanda Duffy
Empirical Research


The task of identity development, which involves distinguishing who one is, and defining and articulating this to others, is a challenging developmental task for most youth. This is made even more challenging when one considers that there are multiple domains of identity development. In the current study, Australia adolescents (N = 336; aged 12–15 years, 46% male) reported their identity status commitment, exploration and reconsideration across two different domains (education and friendship). Cluster analysis was used to evaluate patterns of identity formation within and across domains, and the internalizing symptoms (low self-worth, emotion dysregulation, depressive and anxiety symptoms) and identity disturbance of clusters of youth with different identity status patterns were compared. Results revealed five clusters of committed explorers, committed non-explorers, committed reconsiders, uninvolved, and friend identifiers. Cluster comparisons revealed that, across self-worth, emotion dysregulation and identity disturbance, adolescents in the friend identifiers cluster, who reported high commitment to friendship identity and lower commitment to educational identity relative to their peers, fared worse than adolescents reporting higher than average commitment across both domains, and those reporting high reconsideration in both domains. These findings suggest that the benefit of identity commitment for emotional adjustment may depend somewhat on the domain under investigation, and that evaluating the junction and divergence of different identity domains might identify additional adolescents who are experiencing symptoms of maladjustment.


Identity Adolescents Education Identity disturbance Internalizing symptoms 


Authors’ Contributions

S.M.C. conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, was involved in the acquisition of data, performed statistical analysis, interpreted results, and drafted the manuscript; M.Z.G. conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, assisted with analysis and interpretation of results, and helped to draft the manuscript. A.D. made substantial contributions to the conception of the study and interpretation of results, and was involved in drafting and revising the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This work was partially supported by an Australian Research Council Discover Grant (DP130101868) to the second author, as well as by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship to the first author.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Albarello, F., Crocetti, E., & Rubini, M. (2017). I and us: a longitudinal study on the interplay of personal and social identity in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 1–14.
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, (DSM-5®). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Pub.Google Scholar
  3. Angold, A., Costello, E. J., Messer, S. C., Pickles, A., Winder, F., & Silver, D. (1995). Development of a short questionnaire for use in epidemiological studies of depression in children and adolescents. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 5, 237–249.Google Scholar
  4. Becht, A. I., Nelemans, S. A., Branje, S. J., Vollebergh, W. A., Koot, H. M., & Denissen, J. J. et al. (2016). The quest for identity in adolescence: heterogeneity in daily identity formation and psychosocial adjustment across 5 years. Developmental Psychology, 52, 2010–2021. Scholar
  5. Becht, A. I., Nelemans, S. A., Branje, S. J., Vollebergh, W. A., Koot, H. M., & Meeus, W. H. (2017). Identity uncertainty and commitment making across adolescence: five-year within-person associations using daily identity reports. Developmental Psychology, 53, 2103–2722. Scholar
  6. Bender, D. S., & Skodol, A. E. (2007). Borderline personality as a self-other representational disturbance. Journal of Personality Disorders, 21, 500–517. 195241578?accountid=14543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bergman, L. R., Magnusson, D., & El-Khouri, B. M. (2003). Studying individual development in an interindividual context: a person-oriented approach. New York: Psychology Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bogaerts, A., Claes, L., Verschueren, M., Bastiaens, T., Kaufman, E. A., & Smits, D. et al. (2018). The Dutch self-concept and identity measure (SCIM): factor structure and associations with identity dimensions and psychopathology. Personality and Individual Differences, 123, 56–64. Scholar
  9. Bond, L., Butler, H., Thomas, L., Carlin, J., Glover, S., & Bowes, G. et al. (2007). Social and school connectedness in early secondary school as predictors of late teenage substance use, mental health, and academic outcomes. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40, 357–e18. Scholar
  10. Chabrol, H., & Leichsenring, F. (2006). Borderline personality organization and psychopathic traits in nonclinical adolescents: relationships of identity diffusion, primitive defense mechanisms and reality testing with callousness and impulsivity traits. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 70, 160–170. Scholar
  11. Cicchetti, D., & Rogosch, F. A. (1996). Equifnality and multifinality in developmental psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 8, 597–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crocetti, E., Klimstra, T., Keijsers, L., Hale, W. W 3rd., & Meeus, W. (2009). Anxiety trajectories and identity development in adolescence: a five-wave longitudinal study. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 839–849. Scholar
  13. Crocetti, E., & Meeus, W. (2015). The identity statuses: strengths of a person-centered approach. In K. C. McLean & M. Syed (Eds.), The oxford handbook of identity development (pp. 97–114). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Crocetti, E., Rubini, M., Luyckx, K., & Meeus, W. (2008a). Identity formation in early and middle adolescents from various ethnic groups: from three dimensions to five statuses. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37, 983–996. Scholar
  15. Crocetti, E., Rubini, M., & Meeus, W. (2008b). Capturing the dynamics of identity formation in various ethnic groups: development and validation of a three-dimensional model. Journal of Adolescence, 31, 207–222. Scholar
  16. Crocetti, E., Schwartz, S. J., Fermani, A., Klimstra, T., & Meeus, W. (2012a). A cross-national study of identity status in Dutch and Italian adolescents. European Psychologist, 17, 171–181. Scholar
  17. Crocetti, E., Schwartz, S. J., Fermani, A., & Meeus, W. (2010). The Utrecht-management of identity commitments Scale (U-MICS): Italian validation and cross-national comparisons. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 26, 172–186. Scholar
  18. Crocetti, E., Scrignaro, M., Sica, L. S., & Magrin, M. E. (2012b). Correlates of identity configurations: three studies with adolescent and emerging adult cohorts. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41, 732–748. Scholar
  19. Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identitiy, youth and crisis. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  20. Gore, P. A. (2000). Cluster Analysis. In H. E. Tinsley & S. D. Brown (Eds.), Handbook of applied multivariate statistics and mathematical modeling (pp. 297–321). San Diego: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gratz, K. L., & Roemer, L. (2004). Multidimensional assessment of emotion regulation and dysregulation: development, factor structure, and initial validation of the difficulties in emotion regulation scale. Journal of psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 26, 41–54. Scholar
  22. Harter, S. (2012). Self-perception profile for adolescents: Manual and questionnaires. Denver, CO: University of Denver. Google Scholar
  23. Hatano, K., Sugimura, K., & Crocetti, E. (2016). Looking at the dark and bright sides of identity formation: New insights from adolescents and emerging adults in Japan. Journal of Adolescence, 47, 156–168. Scholar
  24. Heaven, P. C., Ciarrochi, J., & Vialle, W. (2008). Self-nominated peer crowds, school achievement, and psychological adjustment in adolescents: longitudinal analysis. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 977–988. Scholar
  25. Herr, N.R., Hughes, C.D., Neacsiu, A.D., & Rosenthal, M.Z. (2014). Development and validation of the borderline identity disturbance self-report. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  26. Josselson, R., & Flum, H. (2015). Identity status: on refinding the people. In K. C. McLean & M. Syed (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of identity development (pp. 132–146). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Junankar, P. N. (2015). The impact of the global financial crisis on youth unemployment. The Economic and Labour Relations Review, 26, 191–217. Scholar
  28. Karaś, D., Cieciuch, J., Negru, O., & Crocetti, E. (2015). Relationships between identity and well-being in Italian, Polish, and Romanian Emerging Adults. Social Indicators Research, 121, 727–743. Scholar
  29. Klimstra, T. A., & Denissen, J. J. (2017). A theoretical framework for the associations between identity and psychopathology. Developmental Psychology, 53, 2052–2065. Scholar
  30. Klimstra, T. A., Crocetti, E., Hale, W. W., Kolman, A. I., Fortanier, E., & Meeus, W. H. (2011). Identity formation in juvenile delinquents and clinically referred youth. European Review of Applied Psychology, 61, 123–130. Scholar
  31. Koenigsberg, H. W., Harvey, P. D., Mitropoulou, V., New, A. S., Goodman, M., & Silverman, J. et al. (2001). Are the interpersonal and identity disturbances in the borderline personality disorder criteria linked to the traits of affective instability and impulsivity?. Journal of Personality Disorders, 15, 358–370. Scholar
  32. La Greca, A. M., & Lopez, N. (1998). Social anxiety among adolescents: linkages with peer relations and friendships. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 26, 83–94. Scholar
  33. Marcia, J. E. (1966). Development and validation of ego-identity status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3, 551–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Meeus, W. (1996). Studies on identity development in adolescence: an overview of research and some new data. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 25, 569–598. Scholar
  35. Meeus, W., (2001). A three-dimensional measure of identity: The Utrecht-management of identity commitments Scale (U-MICS). Unpublished Manuscript, Research Centre Adolescent Development, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  36. Meeus, W., Van De Schoot, R., Keijsers, L., Schwartz, S. J., & Branje, S. (2010). On the progression and stability of adolescent identity formation: a five‐wave longitudinal study in early‐to‐middle and middle‐to‐late adolescence. Child Development, 81, 1565–1581. Scholar
  37. Mercer, N., Crocetti, E., Branje, S., Van Lier, P., & Meeus, W. (2017). Linking delinquency and personal identity formation across adolescence: examining between-and within-person associations. Developmental Psychology, 53, 2182–2194. Scholar
  38. Milligan, G. W., & Cooper, M. C. (1985). An examination of procedures for determining the number of clusters in a data set. Psychometrika, 50, 159–179. Scholar
  39. Morsunbul, U., Crocetti, E., Cok, F., & Meeus, W. (2016). Identity statuses and psychosocial functioning in Turkish youth: a person-centered approach. Journal of Adolescence, 47, 145–155. Scholar
  40. Neacsiu, A. D., Herr, N. R., Fang, C. M., Rodriguez, M. A., & Rosenthal, M. Z. (2015). Identity disturbance and problems with emotion regulation are related constructs across diagnoses: identity disturbance and emotion dysregulation. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 71, 346–361. Scholar
  41. Schulenberg, J. E., Sameroff, A. J., & Cicchetti, D. (2004). The transition to adulthood as a critical juncture in the course of psychopathology and mental health. Development and Psychopathology, 16, 799–806. Scholar
  42. Sterba, S. K., & Bauer, D. J. (2010). Matching method with theory in person-oriented developmental psychopathology research. Development and Psychopathology, 22, 239–254. Scholar
  43. Syed, M., & McLean, K. C. (2015). The future of identity development research: reflections, tensions, and challenges. In K. C. McLean & M. Syed (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of identity development (pp. 132–146). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Twenge, J.M. (2017). IGen: Why today’s super-connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy--and completely unprepared for adulthood--and what that means for the rest of us. Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  45. van Doeselaar, L., Klimstra, T. A., Denissen, J. J., Branje, S., & Meeus, W. (2018). The role of identity commitments in depressive symptoms and stressful life events in adolescence and young adulthood. Developmental Psychology, 54, 950–962. Scholar
  46. von Eye, A. (2010). Developing the person-oriented approach: Theory and methods of analysis. Development and Psychopathology, 22, 277–285. Scholar
  47. von Eye, A., Bergman, L. R., & Hsieh, C. A. (2015). Person-oriented methodological approaches. Handbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science, 21, 1–53. Scholar
  48. Vosylis, R., Erentaitė, R., & Crocetti, E. (2018). Global versus domain-specific identity processes: which domains are more relevant for emerging adults? Emerging Adulthood, 6, 32–41. Scholar
  49. Waterman, A. S. (2015). Identity as internal processes: How the “i” comes to define the “me.”. In K. C. McLean & M. Syed (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of identity development (pp. 195–209). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., & Mortimer, J. T. (2006). Selection processes and vocational development: a multi-method approach. Advances in Life Course Research, 11, 121–148. 0.1016/S1040-2608(06)11005-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shawna Mastro Campbell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Melanie J. Zimmer-Gembeck
    • 1
  • Amanda Duffy
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Applied Psychology and Menzies Health Institute of QueenslandGriffith UniversitySouthportAustralia

Personalised recommendations