Self-IdentityinCollegeStudents

By: Kaitlynne Nicodemus-Grabow

Self-Identity in College Students



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Our self-identities, that is, how we define and see ourselves as unique individuals, play a vital role in who we are and the direction that our lives take. The self-identity encompasses the totality of knowledge and understanding that we gain about ourselves as we develop including our personalities, aptitudes and capabilities, intellectual and physical attributes, interests, and relationships.

We gain our self-identities in two ways. First, as we develop self-awareness, we observe and evaluate our thoughts, feelings, and behavior based on past experience, current needs, and future goals. We also look outward to the world in which we live, for example, social, academic, and physical, for feedback that also shapes our self-identities. Because we are fundamentally social beings and an essential part of our development involves finding our place in the social and cultural context in which we live, feedback from that social world plays a significant role in the evolution of our self-identities.




How Does It Affect College Students?


In high school, many kids don't have the chance to explore different cultures and lifestyles. Some may not even show their true selves for fear of being judged by their peers. Once in college, many start to learn who they really are. College students and the people around them are there because of their own choices and interests, unlike high school when your parents chose where you would live and attend school. This is why most people stay in touch with friends from college rather than those from high school. Some are also pressured into changing to fit in with those around them. Between sports, studying, and work, stress may push some students to change who they are to fit in with others. College is where you are introduced to new surroundings and new people, giving you the chance to explore more things in life and identify who you really are and who you want to be.


Erikson's Psycho-social Stages of Development

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(Erickson's Stages of Psychosocial, n.d.)

Erikson's belief is that throughout each person's lifetime, they experience different crises/conflicts. Each of the conflicts arises at a certain point in life and must be successfully resolved for progression to the next of the eight stages. The particular stage relevant to identity formation takes place during adolescence (ages 12-20), this stage is called "Identity versus Role Confusion".

The Identity vs. Role Confusion stage consists of adolescents trying to figure out who they are in order to form a basic identity that they will build on throughout their life. The primary concerns of a basic identity for this theory are social and occupational identities. Once an adolescent has accomplished the task of figuring out "who they are", they are ready to enter the next stage of Erikson's theory "Intimacy versus Isolation" where they will form strong friendships and a sense of companionship with others. If the Identity vs. Role Confusion crisis is not solved, an adolescent will be confused about their identity and the roles they should have as adults. The idea is that failure to form one's own identity leads to failure to form a shared identity with others, which could lead to instability in many areas as an adult. The identity formation stage of Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development is a crucial stage in life.



Identity Confusion and Mental Health Issues


Gender Identity Disorder:

Gender, being male or female, is a basic element that helps make up an individual's personality and sense of self. Gender identity disorder is a condition in which a male or female feels a strong identification with the opposite sex. A person with this disorder often experiences great discomfort regarding his or her actual anatomic gender. People with gender identity disorder may act and present themselves as members of the opposite sex and may express a desire to alter their bodies. The disorder affects an individual's self-image, and can impact the person's mannerisms, behavior, and dress. Individuals who are committed to altering their physical appearance through cosmetics, hormones and, in some cases, surgery are known as transsexuals. The exact cause of gender identity disorder is not known, but several theories exist. They suggest that the disorder may be caused by genetic (chromosomal) abnormalities, hormone imbalances during fetal and childhood development, defects in normal human bonding and child rearing, or a combination of these factors. (Gender Identity Disorder, n.d.)

Psychology of The Adopted Child:

Every adopted child at some point in their development, has been deprived of this primitive relationship with their mother. This trauma and the severing of the individual from their racial antecedents lie at the core of what is peculiar to the psychology of the adopted child. The adopted child presents all the complications in social and emotional development in the normal child, but the ego of the adopted child, in addition to all the demands made upon it, is called upon to compensate for the wound left by the loss of the biological mother.

A child who is placed with adoptive parents at or soon after birth misses the mutual and deeply satisfying mother and child relationship. The roots of the problem lie deep in the area of personality where the psychological and physiological aspects are merged. Both for the child and the natural mother, that period is part of the biological sequence, and it is to be doubted whether the relationship of the child to its post partum mother, in its subtler effects, can be replaced by even the best of substitute mothers. Those subtle effects lie so deeply buried in the personality that, in the light of our present knowledge, we cannot evaluate them.

We do know more about the trauma that an older baby suffers when he is separated from his mother with whom his relationship is no longer parasitic, but toward whom he has developed active social striving. For some children, and in some stages of development, the severing of a budding social relationship can cause irreparable harm. The child may be reluctant to give himself into a love relationship again. The child who is placed in infancy has the opportunity of passing through his oedipal development in relation to his adoptive parents without an interruption. (Clothier, 1943)



How Generational Differences May Affect Self-Identity


Generational identity is defined as an individual’s awareness of his or her membership in a generational group and the significance of this group to the individual.

Because our lifespans are increasing, there are large generational differences. Today, it is common to have grandparents and even great-grandparents. Behavior that was acceptable when they were of college age (between 18 and 23) was different than what is acceptable today. Today it is normal to go to college and then get married and start a family at a later age. In the past, some may have already started a family by 18. As a result of this big difference, among others, it may be hard for adolescents to find their identity; they listen to what their family members talk about, but the norms of society are way different than that of even some of our parents.


How Does It Affect College Students?

In high school, many kids don't have the chance to explore different cultures and lifestyles. Some may not even show their true selves for fear of being judged by their peers. Once in college, many start to learn who they really are. College students and the people around them are there because of their own choices and interests, unlike high school when your parents chose where you would live and attend school. This is why most people stay in touch with friends from college rather than those from high school. Some are also pressured into changing to fit in with those around them. Between sports, studying, and work, stress may push some students to change who they are to fit in with others. College is where you are introduced to new surroundings and new people, giving you the chance to explore more things in life and identify who you really are and who you want to be.

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Development of identity after a life-changing event, such as attending college away from home, or moving out of your parent's house.



Literature Cited

Clothier. (1943). Mental Health Of The Adopted Child. Origins Inc.


Erickson's Stages of Psychosocial. (n.d.). Glogster. Retrieved November 27, 2013, from http://www.glogster.com/ajmac18/erikson-s-stages-of-psychosocial-development/g-6ljgqqe7ssj2ok58uddhna0

Gender Identity Disorder. (n.d.). WebMD. Retrieved November 26, 2013, from http://www.webmd.com/sex/gender-identity-disorder