The dynamics of identity exploration in various domains in early adolescence: The results of a longitudinal study

Maria Kłym-Guba, Jan Cieciuch


In accordance with the classic – developmental – approach to identity originated by Marcia (1966), there are two basic identity formation processes: exploration and commitment. The first step on the way to mature identity is exploration. The aim of the present study was to analyze the dynamics of exploration in the period when it begins: in early adolescence. The participants in the longitudinal study (with three measurements at half-year intervals) were 327 adolescents aged 11 to 15 (M = 13.26, SD = 1.20) – elementary and middle school students. The sample was balanced in terms of gender (45% were girls). The instrument we used was the Early Identity Exploration Scale (EIES; Kłym & Cieciuch, 2015), enabling the measurement of identity exploration in 12 domains: physical appearance, free time, family of origin, work, boyfriend–girlfriend relationships, own opinion formation, perception of own place in the life cycle, self-reflection, future, future family, outlook on life, and attitude toward rules. The analysis was performed using a latent growth curve model. It turned out that in some domains (physical appearance, work, boyfriend–girlfriend relationships, and outlook on life) the level of exploration systematically increased, despite the relatively short time of the study; the domain of boyfriend–girlfriend relationships was the only one in which we found no interpersonal differentiation in the intensity of this increase. It also turned out that there was interpersonal differentiation in the level of exploration at the outset in all the domains analyzed.


identity; identity exploration; identity domains; early adolescence; Early Identity Exploration Scale; longitudinal study

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