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Identity Versus Confusion

Stage Five of Psychosocial Development


Identity versus role confusion

Identity versus role confusion is the fifth stage of psychosocial development.

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  • Psychosocial Conflict: Identity Versus Confusion

  • Major Question: "Who am I?"

  • Basic Virtue: Fidelity

  • Important Event(s): Social Relationships

Identity versus confusion is the fifth stage of Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs during adolescence between the ages of approximately 12 to 18. Teens need to develop a sense of self and personal identity. During adolescence, children are exploring their independence and developing a sense of self.

As they make the transition from childhood to adulthood, teens may begin to feel confused or insecure about themselves and how they fit in to society. As they seek to establish a sense of self, teens may experiment with different roles, activities and behaviors. According to Erikson, this is important to the process of forming a strong identity and developing a sense of direction in life.

Those who receive proper encouragement and reinforcement through personal exploration will emerge from this stage with a strong sense of self and a feeling of independence and control. Those who remain unsure of their beliefs and desires will insecure and confused about themselves and the future.

Next: Stage 6 - Intimacy Versus Isolation

Return to The Psychosocial Stages


Erikson, E.H. (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton.

Erikson, E.H. (1963). Childhood and Society. (2nd ed.). New York: Norton.

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