Adolescent Identity Development: The Factors of Change

Among the profound and exciting changes taking place in adolescence is the process of self-discovery. Our teens are working to figure out who they are, making adolescent identity development a central feature of teen life. Young people’s identities are shaped by lots of factors — family, cultural and societal expectations, experiences with institutions like school and the media, and friends. Young people also take active steps and make choices that shape their identity. They select the environments and people they want to be around. They adjust their beliefs and behaviors based on feedback. And they reflect on all of this while working to figure out who they are.

Adolescent identity is developed, in part, based on relationships and feedback received from others. As young people move from early to late adolescence and their brains continue to develop, their adolescent identity is also likely to change.

While your tween or teen may not be doing all of these, here are a few ways they may be changing as they seek answers to the question, “Who am I?”:

Early Adolescents (11-14):

  • Desire to identify themselves in multiple ways outside of their role in the family
  • Increase awareness of themselves as part of a peer group (for some, navigating where they fit into the social landscape may take time and involve multiple changes)
  • Develop flexibility in how they present themselves in different situations
  • Prioritize personal values and decisions to reflect how they see themselves
  • Experience greater sensitivity to feedback from others, particularly peers

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