Theo A. Klimstra
Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, USA
The Importance of Identity for Understanding Psychopathology and Other Problems Among Youth
Clinicians with a research interest introduced the concept of identity in an attempt to better understand and explain their clients’ problems and strengths (e.g., Erikson, 1950). Since then, research on identity has gone a long way and seems to have largely fulfilled its initial promise, as meta-analyses and other large-scale research projects repeatedly found link of identity with psychopathology, other types of problems, and indicators of thriving among youth. However, many studies simply established associations between identity dimensions and other constructs without necessarily addressing why those associations exist and how they should be interpreted. Beyond this, the concept of identity has been operationalized in various ways in different areas of the social sciences, complicating an answer to the question of what it means when there is an association between identity and other variables, such as psychopathology.
Over the last couple of years, my colleagues and I have written several theory papers with the goal of coming to a better understanding of the nature of the linkages between identity and problems. This presentation is based on these contributions and targets to inspire more theory-driven research in this important area of youth studies.