Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 127–141 | Cite as

Testing New Identity Models and Processes in French-speaking Adolescents and Emerging Adults Students

  • Grégoire Zimmermann
  • Lyda Lannegrand-Willems
  • Claire Safont-Mottay
  • Christine Cannard
Empirical Research


Developing a sense of identity is a crucial psychosocial task for young people. The purpose of this study was to evaluate identity development in French-speaking adolescents and emerging adults (in France and Switzerland) using a process-oriented model of identity formation including five dimensions (i.e., exploration in breadth, commitment making, exploration in depth, identification with commitment, and ruminative exploration). The study included participants from three different samples (total N = 2,239, 66.7 % women): two samples of emerging adult student and one sample of adolescents. Results confirmed the hypothesized five-factor dimensional model of identity in our three samples and provided evidence for convergent validity of the model. The results also indicated that exploration in depth might be subdivided in two aspects: a first form of exploration in depth leading to a better understanding and to an increase of the strength of current commitments and a second form of exploration in depth leading to a re-evaluation and a reconsideration of current commitments. Further, the identity status cluster solution that emerged is globally in line with previous literature (i.e., achievement, foreclosure, moratorium, carefree diffusion, diffused diffusion, undifferentiated). However, despite a structural similarity, we found variations in identity profiles because identity development is shaped by cultural context. These specific variations are discussed in light of social, educational and economic differences between France and the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Implications and suggestions for future research are offered.


Adolescence Emerging adulthood Exploration in depth Identity processes Identity statuses 



The authors would like to thank the adolescents and the students who kindly volunteered to participate in the study. We also thank Aline Fleury-Schubert for assistance with data processing, and Gregory Mantzouranis for assistance with data analyses. Information contained in this manuscript was presented in part at the 13th Biennal conference of the European Association for Research on Adolescence (EARA), 30 August 2012, Island of Spetses, Greece.

Authors’ contributions

GZ participated in the conception of the study, in its design, coordination and data collection, performed the statistical analysis and drafted the manuscript; LLW participated in the conception, the design, the coordination and the data collection of the study, executed the cluster analysis and participated in the interpretation of data; CSM participated in the conception, the design, the coordination, and the data collection of the study; CC participated in the conception, the design, the coordination, and the data collection of the study. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Grégoire Zimmermann
    • 1
  • Lyda Lannegrand-Willems
    • 2
  • Claire Safont-Mottay
    • 3
  • Christine Cannard
    • 4
  1. 1.LabDCI, Institute of PsychologyUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Laboratory of Psychology EA 4139University of BordeauxBordeauxFrance
  3. 3.Laboratory of Psychology and Socialization Process (PDPS) EA 1687University of ToulouseToulouseFrance
  4. 4.Laboratory of Psychology and NeuroCognitionUniversity of Grenoble 2 Pierre MendésGrenobleFrance

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