Young people in transition to adulthood take an active and goal-oriented role in their own development. The identity formation process is closely tied to the construction of personal goals that optimize young people’s ability to handle their upcoming lifespan development. This study aimed to shed light on the intertwined processes of young adults’ identity formation and the contents of their personal goals and concerns. Specifically, we examined to what extent there is a “dark side” to certain identity profiles, where individuals not only experience poor well-being, but also differ from individuals in other identity profiles in the kinds of personal goals they set and the concerns they struggle with.
We studied sample of young adults (N = 577; 322 females) at age 23 and 25 of ongoing Finnish Educational Transitions Study (FinEdu). At age 23, identity formation was assesed with a short version of the Dimensions of Identity Development Scale. Identity formation was evaluated with five dimensions: commitment making, identification with commitment, exploration in breadth, exploration in depth, and ruminative exploration. For validation purposes, career goal appraisals and well-being (satisfaction with life, depressive symptoms, engagement in academic context and academic burnout) was measured at age 23. Personal goal and concern contents were studied with the Revised Personal Project Analysis Inventory at age 23 and 25. Using person oriented methods, we applied latent profile analysis to reveal identity formation profiles, and configural frequency analysis was employed to identify the more common and rarer personal goal and concern contents within the different identity profiles at age 23 and 25.
Five profiles were revealed: moderate achievement (44 %) moderate diffusion (30 %), achievement (14 %), diffused diffusion (9 %) and reconsidering achievement (3 %). Two “dark side” identity profiles, characterized by low commitment and high ruminative exploration, were identified: moderate diffusion and diffused diffusion. The moderate diffusion profile seemed to have developmental task related personal goals and concerns. In the diffused diffusion profile, self-focused ruminative personal goals and concerns were typical and relationships related contents were atypical. The findings persisted over the two years’ follow-up.
It has been suggested in the identity and the personal goal literature that young people act adaptively when they intentionally engage in goal pursuits and identity negotiations, which are appropriate in meeting the demands of a developmental transition. Accordingly, the diffused diffusion profile, with multiple self-focused and lack of relationship related personal goals and concerns, can be considered maladaptive and not in line with societal expectations. These individuals seem to be willing to explore the possibilities of the transition to adulthood but for possibly different reasons, they seem to focus their attention on themselves, and engage in rumination.
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