Why a Strong Sense of Self Brings Good Mental Health
Researchers have found that adolescents who actively search for a personal identity are more likely to describe themselves in consistent and positive terms, reinforcing their values.
What's the Latest Development?
In a study of 508 Dutch adolescents, researchers have found that building and clarifying one's personal identity is an important phase in feeling fulfilled as an adult and retaining good mental health. Measurements were taken of two principle metrics: personal identity, defined as "the degree to which one has developed a clear, internally consistent bundle of goals, values, and beliefs," and self-concept clarity, or "individuals’ tendency to feel sure of themselves and describe themselves in positive, consistent terms." The team of researchers found a positive correlation between personal identity and self-concept clarity.
What's the Big Idea?
Among the adolescents, a strong personal commitment to a specific course of action seemed to reinforce a sense of clarity about who a person thought he or she was. That sense of clarity created positive feedback, allowing them to stay committed to their ideals more easily. The study concludes that "striking the right balance between making commitments and reconsidering commitments may be key for adolescent identity development." The research recognizes that some reconsideration of commitments is necessary for healthy development, but that daily struggles to develop a sense of identity may have negative outcomes.
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When adults are challenged to behave like adults, by a child, they can go in one of two directions.