Identity is defined as something that is unique and differentiated from others, yet the same within itself or over time.
Identity formation is the fifth stage in the human developmental life course as proposed by Erik Erikson Eight Stages of Development. This identity v. role confusion stage is marked by a normative psycho-social crisis in the adolescence and young adulthood stage, where the desired result is to resolve the conflict through establishing an achieved identity.
It may come in the form of these questions:
Resolution to identity enables one to make commitments in education, career, relationships, finances, adult roles, etc. as a part of the individualization process which lays the foundation for the future.
The identity formation stage requires that one deliberately work to develop this individually. Identity is not given by society, nor by some automatic maturational phenomenon. Identity must be required through sustained individual efforts. Unwillingness to work on one’s own identity formation carries dangers or role diffusion which could result in alienation and a lasting sense of isolation or confusion.
References: Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and Society. New York: W.W. Norton. Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton. Muuss, R. E. (1996). Theories of Adolescence, 6th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.