Questioning Moshman on Identity Development

It’s the busy season for adolescent psychology posts here at tdaxp. Elkind and Price were finished out, Moshman started (in a post since updated with even more!), and even a reaction paper was posted. Now a question set over David Moshman’s views on identity development.


On 81, Moshman writes that “Erikson noted the important correspondences of the adult stages to teh child stages with respect to relationships across the generations.” With the importance of family throughout Erikson’s stages of personality development, might “family” be considered a “base identity”? What other base identities are there? Culture? Work?

On 82, Moshman says “more briefly, Erikson’s view was that adolescent exploration of alternatives ideally results in… a commitment to ideals.” Isn’t this a normative judgment? Why not a commitment to individuals?

On 83, Moshman defines Marcia’s term “foreclosed individual” as someone with “clear commitments” that have been “internalized.” Is this a natural state of someone in a highly-connected world, who will be in contact with a large number of very fit memes?

On 84, Moshman introduces “identity achieved” as an introduction to “foreclosed individual,” because an achieved individual supposedly chose their identity while a foreclosed one did not. But constructivism teaches that the individual is an active participants in decision making. Likewise, early adolescents is surely an identity crisis for all. How then can the difference between achieved and foreclosed be meaningfully sustained, other than in a historical sense?

On page 90, Moshman lists the first stage of identity development as “establishing concrete self-other distinctions.” Yet Ortega y Gasset said “I am myself and my surroundings,” and the philosophical basis of that theory of identity goes back much farther (“no man is an island,” &c). How does Moshman harmonize his theory with this history of thought?

On 90 and 91, Moshman describes identity as “a theory of oneself,” and gives two aspects of theories: coherency and explanativeness. Yet he ignores predictiveness, which seems central to identity.

On page 97, Moshman lists the standard James Marcia domains of identity formation as career, sexuality, religion, and political identity. Why not family, especially given the importance of family seen on page 81?

On page 99, Moshman reviews the four identity statuses (achieved, moratorium, diffused, and foreclosed from page 85). What is the relation between an identity status to a Boydian “orientation state” or “stance”?

On page 100, Moshman quotes “dogmatic self-theorists” as one who strives “to defend against potential threats to their self-constructions. Individuals who utilize this protectionist approach to self-theorizing have been found to endorse authoritarian views, to possess rigid self-construct systems, and to be closed to novel information relevant to hard core values and beliefs.” Does this imply that those who use power-centric techniques to prevent annoying information are dogmatic self-theorists. For instance, is it likely that speech codes which prevent the flying of confederate flags in dormitories (as discussed in class) were devised by dogmatic self-theorists?

On page 105, Moshman quotes Pinney as saying “Growing up in a society where the mainstream culture may differ significantly in values and beliefs from their own culture of origin, [minority] youth face the task of achieving a satisfactory and satisfying integration of ethnic identity into a self-identity.” Is this an argument for increased integration (and thus deprecation) of ethnic identity? If differing cultures of origin deny members of smaller societies the ability to “start at the same place” as majorities, then wouldn’t the best solution be to melt those small cultures into one greater culture?

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