Identity formation is without doubts one of the main topics in the developmental psychology research nowadays. However, the identity domains usually proposed as the most important for identity (such as ideological or educational) may be inadequate for contemporary young adults. The important question about identity formation in various life domains is: which domain contributes to the greatest extent to individual well-being?
The main aim of the research was to answer this question by applying a domain-specific approach to identity and examining the relationships between identity processes and well-being in various life domains (previously identified in qualitative study) and identifying the domains that are most important for experiencing well-being in young adulthood. We adopted the three-dimensional model of identity formation, consisted of three pivotal processes: in-depth exploration, commitment and reconsideration of commitment.
In presented study we examined the total group of 1329 participants aged 19-35 (M = 22.77, SD = 3.64). We used the Mental Health Continuum – Short Form and the Questionnaire for Eudaimonic Well-Being to measure well-being and the Warsaw Measurement of Identity Commitments Scale to examine identity processes in the following domains: personality characteristics, worldview, hobbies and interests, experiences from the past, future plans, family relationships, relationships with friends and acquaintances, and occupation.
To examine the relationships between identity processes we tested two types of structural models. Firstly, we tested the separate model for each identity domain, where the identity processes were treated as the predictors of well-being. Then, we introduced all identity domains into one model. Finally, we tested the robustness of the findings from the second step by utilizing another measure of well-being, to confirm the results from the second step.
The identity dimensions explained a high proportion of well-being variance (with commitment as the strongest positive predictor). Moreover, in-depth exploration was positively and reconsideration negatively related to well-being. However, the percentage of explained well-being variance varied depending on the domain. When introducing all domains into the one structural model, it appeared that well-being was significantly predicted by all three processes only in personality characteristics domain. In other domains, only a few coefficients were significant. Other domains connected with experiencing well-being were: aims and plans for the future, friends and acquaintances, past experiences, and occupation.
Results show that for young adults being strongly committed to one’s personality traits, having stable, satisfactory individual relationships, and being certain about one’s occupational choices are the most important factors for experiencing well-being.
Moreover, the results show that traditionally examined identity domains, such as ideological, occupational, and relational are not always considered by young people to be significantly important for achieving well-being. Thus, the implications for future research should include the revision of the possible range of identity domains, depending on the aim of the research. When applying the domain-specific approach to identity, one should examine simultaneously a greater variety of domains.
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