The Development, Factor Structure, and Validation of the Self-concept and Identity Measure (SCIM): A Self-Report Assessment of Clinical Identity Disturbance

  • Erin A. Kaufman
  • Jenny M. Cundiff
  • Sheila E. Crowell


Clinically relevant identity disturbance, rather than more normative identity confusion, is a construct that has received limited empirical attention. This relative lack of empirical research is surprising, given that identity disturbance is a criterion for BPD, among the proposed features of all DSM-5 personality disorders, and may also be relevant for many other psychiatric diagnoses. The nomenclature used to describe identity-related constructs is currently unstandardized and many theorists have described overlapping concepts. Thus, there is a need to operationalize identity problems and improve measurement of this important construct. In this article we report the results of two studies that establish the psychometric properties and factor structure of the Self-Concept and Identity Measure (SCIM). The SCIM is a brief, self-report scale designed to assess dimensions of identity (healthy and disturbed) among adults. Participants were recruited through a psychology department subject pool (Study 1; n = 536) and also through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Website (Study 2; n = 470). An exploratory factor analysis of Study 1 data revealed a 3-factor structure. A confirmatory factor analysis validated the 3-factor structure in the community sample recruited for Study 2. Results indicate that the SCIM is correlated with emotion dysregulation, Borderline Personality Disorder, depression, and other measures of psychopathology. Scores on the SCIM yielded high internal consistency (Cronbach’s α = 0.89), test–retest reliability (α = 0.93, r = 0.88; intraclass correlation coefficient = 0.88), and adequate construct validity. The SCIM appears to produce valid and reliable test scores, with promising applications for clinical research and practice.


Identity disturbance Psychopathology Emotion dysregulation Assessment Factor analysis 



Support for these studies came from institutional start-up funds provided to Dr. Sheila E. Crowell by the University of Utah. The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Jonathan Butner for statistical consultation and the experiment participants.

Conflict of Interest

Erin A. Kaufman declares no conflict of interest; Jenny M. Cundiff declares no conflict of interest; Sheila E. Crowell declares no conflict of interest.

Experiment Participants

All experimental procedures were approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Utah. The manuscript states that informed consent was obtained from all participants.


  1. Akhtar, S. (1984). The syndrome of identity diffusion. The American Journal Of Psychiatry, 141, 1381–1385.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Al-Owidha, A., Green, K. E., & Kroger, J. (2009). On the question of an identity status category order: Rasch model step and scale statistics used to identify category order. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 33, 88–96. doi: 10.1177/0165025408100110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, D.C.: Author.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arbuckle, J. L. (2009). Amos 18 user’s guide. Crawfordville: Amos Development Corporation.Google Scholar
  5. Balistreri, E., Busch-Rossnagel, N. A., & Geisinger, K. F. (1995). Development and preliminary validation of the Ego Identity Process Questionnaire. Journal Of Adolescence, 18, 179–192. doi: 10.1006/jado.1995.1012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ball, L., & Chandler, M. J. (1989). Identity formation in suicidal and nonsuicidal youth: the role of self-continuity. Development and Psychopathology, 1, 257–275. doi: 10.1017/S0954579400000444.
  7. Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., Ball, R., & Ranieri, W. (1996). Comparison of Beck Depression Inventories -IA and -II in psychiatric outpatients. Journal of Personality Assessment, 67, 588–597.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Berman, S. L., Montgomery, M. J., & Kurtines, W. M. (2004). The development and validation of a measure of identity distress. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 4, 1–8. doi: 10.1207/s1532706xid0401_1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berzonsky, M. D. (1990). Self-construction over the life-span: A process perspective on identity formation. In G. J. Neimeyer & R. A. Neimeyer (Eds.), Advances in personal construct psychology: A research annual (Vol. 1, pp. 155–186). US: Elsevier Science/JAI Press.Google Scholar
  10. Blaney, P. H., & Millon, T. (2009). Oxford textbook of psychopathology (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bohus, M., Kleindienst, N., Limberger, M. F., Stieglitz, R.-D., Domsalla, M., & Chapman, A. L. (2009). The short version of the Borderline Symptom List (BSL-23): development and initial data on psychometric properties. Psychopathology, 42, 32–39.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Buhrmester, M., Kwang, T., & Gosling, S. D. (2011). Amazon’s Mechanical Turk: a new source of inexpensive, yet high-quality, data? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 3–5. doi: 10.1177/1745691610393980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Campbell, J. D., & Fehr, B. (1990). Self-esteem and perceptions of conveyed impressions: Is negative affectivity associated with greater realism? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 122–133.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Campbell, J. D., Assanand, S., & Di Paula, A. (2003). The structure of the self-concept and its relation to psychological adjustment. Journal of Personality, 71, 115–140. doi: 10.1111/1467-6494.t01-1-00002.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Weintraub, J. K. (1989). Assessing coping strategies: a theoretically based approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 267–283.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Cattell, R. B. (1966). The scree test for the number of factors. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 1, 245–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 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. doi: 10.1521/bumc.2006.70.2.160.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Chandler, M. J., Lalonde, C. E., Sokol, B. W., & Hallett, D. (2003). Personal persistence, identity development, and suicide: a study of Native and Non-native North American adolescents. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 68, vii.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Comrey, A. L., & Lee, H. B. (1992). A first course in factor analysis (2nd ed.). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  20. Cramer, P. (2004). Identity change in adulthood: the contribution of defense mechanisms and life experiences. Journal of Research in Personality, 38, 280–316. doi: 10.1016/s0092-6566(03)00070-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Crawford, T. N., Cohen, P., Johnson, J. G., Sneed, J. R., & Brook, J. S. (2004). The course and psychosocial correlates of personality disorder symptoms in adolescence: Erikson’s developmental theory revisited. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 33, 373–387. doi: 10.1023/B:JOYO.0000037631.87018.9d.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Crocetti, E., Rubini, M., Luyckx, K., & Meeus, W. (2008). 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. doi: 10.1007/s10964-007-9222-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Crowell, S. E., Beauchaine, T. P., & Linehan, M. M. (2009). A biosocial developmental model of borderline personality: elaborating and extending Linehan’s theory. Psychological Bulletin, 135, 495–510.Google Scholar
  24. Davies, D. (2010). Child development: A practitioner’s guide (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  25. Derogatis, L. R., & Lazarus, L. (1994). SCL-90—R, Brief Symptom Inventory, and matching clinical rating scales. In M. E. Maruish (Ed.), The use of psychological testing for treatment planning and outcome assessment (pp. 217–248). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  26. Diehl, M., Hastings, C. T., & Stanton, J. M. (2001). Self-concept differentiation across the adult life span. Psychology and Aging, 16, 643–654. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.16.4.643.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Donahue, E. M., Robins, R. W., Roberts, B. W., & John, O. P. (1993). The divided self: concurrent and longitudinal effects of psychological adjustment and social roles on self-concept differentiation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 834–846.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Drucker, P. M., & Greco-Vigorito, C. (2002). An exploratory factor analysis of children’s depression inventory scores in young children of substance abusers. Psychological Reports, 91, 131–141.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Dunkel, C. S., Minor, L., & Babineau, M. (2010). The continued assessment of self-continuity and identity. The Journal of Genetic Psychology: Research and Theory on Human Development, 171, 251–261. doi: 10.1080/00221325.2010.483699.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Erikson, E. H. (1956). The problem of ego identity. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 4, 56–121. doi: 10.1177/000306515600400104.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity, youth and crisis. Oxford: Norton & Co.Google Scholar
  32. Farchaus Stein, K., & Corte, C. (2007). Identity impairment and the eating disorders: content and organization of the self-concept in women with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. European Eating Disorders Review, 15, 58–69. doi: 10.1002/erv.726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Finzi-Dottan, R., Bilu, R., & Golubchik, P. (2011). Aggression and conduct disorder in former Soviet Union immigrant adolescents: the role of parenting style and ego identity. Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 918–926. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2010.12.008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gergen, K. J. (1991). The saturated self: Dilemmas of identity in contemporary life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  35. Goth, K., Foelsch, P., Susanne, S.-M., Birkhölzer, M., Jung, E., Pick, O., & Schmeck, K. (2012). Assessment of identity development and identity diffusion in adolescence - Theoretical basis and psychometric properties of the self-report questionnaire AIDA. Child And Adolescent Psychiatry And Mental Health, 6, 27. doi: 10.1186/1753-2000-6-27.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Gratz, K. (2001). Measurement of deliberate self-harm: preliminary data on the deliberate self-harm inventory. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 23, 253–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Harter, S. (1997). The personal self in social context: Barriers to authenticity. In R. D. Ashmore & L. J. Jussim (Eds.), Self and identity: Fundamental issues (pp. 81–105). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Harter, S. (1998). The development of self-representations. In N. Eisenberg & W. Damon (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (Social, emotional, and personality development 5th ed., Vol. 3, pp. 553–617). Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons Inc.Google Scholar
  40. Harter, S. (2006). Self-processes and developmental psychopathology. In D. Cicchetti & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental psychopathology, Vol 1: Theory and method (2nd ed., pp. 370–418). Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons Inc.Google Scholar
  41. Harter, S., & Monsour, A. (1992). Development analysis of conflict caused by opposing attributes in the adolescent self-portrait. Developmental Psychology, 28, 251–260. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.28.2.251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Harter, S., Marold, D. B., Whitesell, N. R., & Cobbs, G. (1996). A model of the effects of perceived parent and peer support on adolescent false self behavior. Child Development, 67, 360–374.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Harter, S., Bresnick, S., Bouchey, H. A., & Whitesell, N. R. (1997). The development of multiple role-related selves during adolescence. Development and Psychopathology, 9, 835–853.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Heard, H. L., & Linehan, M. M. (1993). Problems of self and borderline personality disorder: A dialectical behavioral analysis. In Z. V. Segal & S. J. Blatt (Eds.), The self in emotional distress: Cognitive and psychodynamic perspectives (pp. 301–333). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  45. Henry-Edwards, S., Humeniuk, R., Ali, R., Poznyak, V., & Monteiro, M. (2003). The Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST): Guidelines for use in primary care (Draft Version 1.1 for Field Testing), Geneva.Google Scholar
  46. Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6, 1–55. doi: 10.1080/10705519909540118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Humeniuk, R., Ali, R., Babor, T. F., Farrell, M., Formigoni, M., & Jittiwutikarn, J. (2008). Validation of the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST). Addiction, 103(6), 1039–1047. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2007.02114.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Inder, M. L., Crowe, M. T., Moor, S., Luty, S. E., Carter, J. D., & Joyce, P. R. (2008). “I actually don’t know who I am”: the impact of bipolar disorder on the development of self. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 71, 123–133.Google Scholar
  49. Jones, R. M. (1992). Ego identity and adolescent problem behavior. In G. R. Adams, T. P. Gullotta & R. Montemayor (Eds.), Adolescent identity formation (pp. 216–233). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  50. Jöreskog, K. G., & Sörbom, D. (1993). LISREL 8: Structural equation modeling with the SIMPLIS command language. Chicago: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
  51. Jørgensen, C. R. (2009). Identity style in patients with borderline personality disorder and normal controls. Journal of Personality Disorders, 23, 101–112. doi: 10.1521/pedi.2009.23.2.101.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Jørgensen, C. R. (2010). Invited essay: identity and borderline personality disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders, 24, 21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kernberg, O. F. (2006). Identity: recent findings and clinical implications. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 75, 969–1004.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Kroger, J., Martinussen, M., & Marcia, J. E. (2010). Identity status change during adolescence and young adulthood: a meta-analysis. Journal Of Adolescence, 33, 683–698. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2009.11.002.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  56. Livesley, W. J. (2006). General assessment of personality disorder (GAPD). Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.Google Scholar
  57. Lutz, C. J., & Ross, S. R. (2003). Elaboration versus fragmentation: distinguishing between self-complexity and self-concept differentiation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 22, 537–559. doi: 10.1521/jscp.22.5.537.22927.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lynam, D. R., & Widiger, T. A. (2001). Using the five-factor model to represent the DSM-IV personality disorders: an expert consensus approach. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110, 401–412. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.110.3.401.
  59. Lysaker, P. H., & Lysaker, J. T. (2004). Schizophrenia as dialogue at the ends of its tether: the relationship of disruptions in identity with positive and negative symptoms. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 17, 105–119. doi: 10.1080/10720530490273890.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. MacCallum, R. C., Browne, M. W., & Sugawara, H. M. (1996). Power analysis and determination of sample size for covariance structure modeling. Psychological Methods, 1, 130–149. doi: 10.1037/1082-989x.1.2.130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Marcia, J. E. (1966). Development and validation of ego-identity status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3, 551–558. doi: 10.1037/h0023281.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Marcia, J. E. (1986). Clinical implications of the identity status approach within psychosocial developmental theory. Cadernos de Consulta Psicologica, 2, 23–34.Google Scholar
  63. Marcia, J. E. (1994). The empirical study of ego identity. In H. A. Bosma, T. G. Graafsma, H. D. Grotevant & D. J. de Levita (Eds.), Identity and development: An interdisciplinary approach (pp. 67–80). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  64. Marcia, J. E. (2003). Treading fearlessly: a commentary on personal persistence, identity development, and suicide. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 68, 131–138. doi: 10.1111/1540-5834.00257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Marcia, J. E. (2006). Ego identity and personality disorders. Journal of Personality Disorders, 20, 577–596. doi: 10.1521/pedi.2006.20.6.577.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Marsh, H. W., Wen, Z., & Hau, K. (2004). Structural equation models of latent interactions: evaluation of alternative estimation strategies and indicator construction. Psychological Methods, 9, 275–300. doi: 10.1037/1082-989X.9.3.275.
  67. Meares, R., Gerull, F., Stevenson, J., & Korner, A. (2011). Is self disturbance the core of borderline personality disorder? An outcome study of borderline personality factors. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 45, 214–222. doi: 10.3109/00048674.2010.551280.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Millon, T., & Simonsen, E. (2010). A précis of psychopathological history. In T. Millon, R. F. Krueger, & E. Simonsen (Eds.), Contemporary directions in psychopathology: Scientific foundations of the DSM-V and ICD-11 (pp. 3–52). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  69. O’Connor, B. P. (2005). A search for consensus on the dimensional structure of personality disorders. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61, 323–345.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Rose, D. N., & Bond, M. J. (2008). Identity, stress and substance abuse among young adults. Journal of Substance Use, 13, 268–282. doi: 10.1080/14659890801912006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Samuel, S., & Akhtar, S. (2009). The Identity Consolidation Inventory (ICI): development and application of a questionnaire for assessing the structuralization of individual identity. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 69, 53–61. doi: 10.1057/ajp.2008.39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Shanahan, M. J., & Pychyl, T. A. (2007). An ego identity perspective on volitional action: identity status, agency, and procrastination. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 901–911. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2007.02.013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Sheldon, K. M., Ryan, R. M., Rawsthorne, L. J., & Ilardi, B. (1997). Trait self and true self: cross-role variation in the Big-Five personality traits and its relations with psychological authenticity and subjective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 1380–1393. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.73.6.1380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Stern, B. L., Caligor, E., Clarkin, J. F., Critchfield, K. L., Horz, S., MacCornack, V., & Kernberg, O. F. (2010). Structured Interview of Personality Organization (STIPO): preliminary psychometrics in a clinical sample. Journal of Personality Assessment, 92, 35–44. doi: 10.1080/00223890903379308.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Talley, A. E., Tomko, R. L., Littlefield, A. K., Trull, T. J., & Sher, K. J. (2011). The influence of general identity disturbance on reports of lifetime substance use disorders and related outcomes among sexual minority adults with a history of substance use. Psychology Of Addictive Behaviors: Journal Of The Society Of Psychologists In Addictive Behaviors, 25, 530–541. doi: 10.1037/a0023022.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Taylor, S., & Goritsas, E. (1994). Dimensions of identity diffusion. Journal of Personality Disorders, 8, 229–239. doi: 10.1521/pedi.1994.8.3.229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Verheul, R., Andrea, H., Berghout, C. C., Dolan, C., Busschbach, J. V., & van der Kroft, P. A. (2008). Severity Indices of Personality Problems (SIPP-118): development, factor structure, reliability, and validity. Psychological Assessment, 20(1), 23–34. doi: 10.1037/1040-3590.20.1.23.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Waterman, A. S. (2007). Doing well: the relationship of identity status to three conceptions of well-being. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 7, 289–307. doi: 10.1080/15283480701600769.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Westen, D., & Heim, A. K. (2003). Disturbances of self and identity in personality disorders. In M. R. Leary & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity (pp. 643–664). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  80. Westen, D., Betan, E., & Defife, J. A. (2011). Identity disturbance in adolescence: associations with borderline personality disorder. Development and Psychopathology, 23, 305–313. doi: 10.1017/s0954579410000817.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  81. Wheaton, B., Muthen, B., Alwin, D. F., & Summers, G. (1977). Assessing reliability and stability in panel models. Sociological Methodology, 8, 84–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wheeler, H. A., Adams, G. R., & Keating, L. (2001). Binge eating as a means for evading identity issues: the association between an avoidance identity style and bulimic behavior. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 1, 161–178. doi: 10.1207/s1532706xid0102_04.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Widiger, T. A., & Trull, T. J. (2007). Plate tectonics in the classification of personality disorder: shifting to a dimensional model. American Psychologist, 62, 71–83. doi: 10.1037/0003-066x.62.2.71.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  84. Wilkinson-Ryan, T., & Westen, D. (2000). Identity disturbance in borderline personality disorder: an empirical investigation. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 157, 528–541. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.157.4.528.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  85. Winston, A. P. (2005). Projection, introjection and identity in anorexia nervosa. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 21, 389–399. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0118.2005.tb00226.x.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin A. Kaufman
    • 1
  • Jenny M. Cundiff
    • 1
  • Sheila E. Crowell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

Personalised recommendations