Cultural Formation

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Identity formation is the process of the development of the distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity (known as personal continuity) in a particular stage of life in which individual characteristics are possessed by which a person is recognized or known (such as the establishment of a reputation). This process defines an individual to others and themselves. Pieces of the entity's actual identity include a sense of continuity, a sense of uniqueness from others, and a sense of affiliation. Identity formation leads to a number issues of personal identity and an identity where the individual has some sort of comprehension of him or herself as a discrete, separate entity. This may be through individuation whereby the undifferentiated individual tends to become unique, or undergoes stages through which differentiated facets of a person's life tend toward becoming a more indivisible whole.

Theory of developmental stages

In developmental psychology, a stage is a distinct phase in an individual's development. Many theories in psychology characterize development in terms of stages. Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development expanding on Freud's psychosexual stages defined eight stages that describes how individuals relate to their social world. James W. Fowler's stages of faith development is seen as a holistic orientation and is concerned with the individual's relatedness to the universal. Sigmund Freud's psychosexual stages describe the progression of an individual's unconscious desires. Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development to describe how individuals develop in reasoning about morals. Jane Loevinger developed a theory with stages of ego development. Margaret Mahler's psychoanalytic developmental theory contained three phases regarding the child's object relations. Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development to describe how children reason and interact with their surroundings. James Marcia's theory focuses on identity achievement and has four identity statuses. Maria Montessori's sensitive periods of development is concerned with the a series of leaps in learning during the preschool years.


Self-concept or self-identity is the sum total of a being's knowledge and understanding of his or her self. The self-concept is different from self-consciousness, which is an awareness of one's self. Components of the self-concept include physical, psychological, and social attributes, which can be influenced by the individual's attitudes, habits, beliefs and ideas. These components and attributes can not be condensed to the general concepts of self-image and the self-esteem.

Cultural identity is the (feeling of) identity of a group or culture, or of an individual as far as she/he is influenced by her/his belonging to a group or culture. Cultural identity is similar to and has overlaps with, but is not synonymous with, identity politics. There are modern questions of culture that are transferred into questions of identity. An ethnic identity is the identification with a certain ethnicity, usually on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry. Recognition by others as a distinct ethnic group is often a contributing factor to developing this bond of identification. Ethnic groups are also often united by common cultural, behavioral, linguistic, ritualistic, or religious traits. Processes that result in the emergence of such identification are summarized as ethnogenesis. Various cultural studies and social theory investigate the question of cultural and ethnic identities. Cultural identity remarks upon: place, gender, race, history, nationality, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and ethnicity. National identity is an ethical and philosophical concept whereby all humans are divided into groups called nations. Members of a "nation" share a common identity, and usually a common origin, in the sense of ancestry, parentage or descent.

A religious identity is the set of beliefs and practices generally held by an individual, involving adherence to codified beliefs and rituals and study of ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as faith and mystic experience. The term "religious identity" refers to the personal practices related to communal faith and to rituals and communication stemming from such conviction.

In business, a professional identity is the "persona" of a professional which is designed to accord with and facilitate the attainment of business objectives. A professional identity comes into being when there is a philosophy which is manifest in a distinct corporate culture - the corporate personality. A business professional is a person in a profession with certain types of skills that sometimes requiring formal training or education. The career development of an individual focuses on how individuals manage their careers within and between organizations and how organizations structure the career progress of their members, can be tied into succession planning within some organizations.

In sociology, gender identity describes the gender with which a person identifies (i.e, whether one perceives oneself to be a man, a woman, or describes oneself in some less conventional way), but can also be used to refer to the gender that other people attribute to the individual on the basis of what they know from gender role indications (social behavior, clothing, hair style, etc.). Gender identity may be affected by a variety of social structures, including the person's ethnic group, employment status, religion or irreligion, and family.

Interpersonal identity development

Social relation can refer to a multitude of social interactions, regulated by social norms, between two or more people, with each having a social position and performing a social role. In sociological hierarchy, social relation is more advanced than behavior, action, social behavior, social action, social contact and social interaction. Social relations form the basis of concepts such as social organization, social structure, social movement and social system.

Interpersonal identity development is composed of three elements:

Interpersonal identity development allows an individual to question and examine various personality elements, such as ideas, beliefs, and behaviors. Social influences by the actions or thoughts of others change an individual. Examples of social influence can be seen in socialization and peer pressure. This is the effect of other people on a person's behavior. Interpersonal identity development occurs during exploratory self-analysis and self-evaluation ending at various time with the establishment of an easy-to-understand and consolidative sense of self or identity.

Self, other, and interaction

During the interpersonal identity development an exchange of propositions and counter-propositions occurs resulting in a qualitative transformation of the individual in the direction of the interaction. The aim of the interpersonal identity development is to try to resolve the undifferentiated facets of an individual. The individuals existence is undifferentiated but this, upon examination, is found to be indistinguishable from others. Given this, and with other admissions, the individual is lead to a contradiction between self and others; thus, forcing the withdrawal of the undifferentiated self as a truth. In resolution of this incongruence, the person integrate or rejects the encountered elements which results in a new identity. During each of these exchanges human beings encounter when they go through life, the person succeed in resolving the exchange and faces future exchanges. The exchanges are recurring, as the changing world constantly presents exchanges between individuals thus allowing individuals to redefine themselves.


Individuals gain a social identity and group identity by their affiliation. This is from membership in various groups. These groups include, among various categories,:

The term collective identity is a sense of belonging to a group (the collective) that is so strong that a person who identifies with the group will dedicate his or her life to the group over individual identity: he or she will defend the views of the group and assume risks for the group, sometimes as great as loss of life. The cohesiveness of the collective goes beyond community, as the collective suffers the pain of grief from the loss of a member.

External articles and references

Further reading

  • A Erdman,A Study of Bisexual Identity Formation. 2006.
  • A Portes, D MacLeod, What Shall I Call Myself? Hispanic Identity Formation in the Second Generation. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 1996.
  • AS Waterman, Identity Formation: Discovery or Creation? The Journal of Early Adolescence, 1984.
  • AS Waterman, Finding Someone to be: Studies on the Role of Intrinsic Motivation in Identity Formation. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 2004.
  • A Warde, Consumption, Identity-Formation and Uncertainty. Sociology, 1994.
  • A Wendt, Collective Identity Formation and the International State. The American Political Science Review, 1994.
  • CF Schryer, Genre Theory, Health-Care Discourse, and Professional Identity Formation. Journal of Business and Technical Communication 19.3 (2005):249-278.
  • CG Levine, JE Côté, JE Cãotâ, Identity Formation, Agency, and Culture: a social psychological synthesis. 2002.
  • DL Blustein, Relationship between the Identity Formation Process and Career Development. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 1989.
  • HD Grotevant, Toward a Process Model of Identity Formation. Journal of Adolescent Research, 1987.
  • G Robert, C Bate, C Pope, J Gabbay, A le May, Processes and dynamics of identity formation in professional organisations. 2007.
  • HL Minton, GJ McDonald, Homosexual identity formation as a developmental process.
  • I Abu-Saad, State-Controlled Education and Identity Formation Among the Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel. American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 49, No. 8, 1085-1100 (2006).
  • JE Côté, Sociological perspectives on identity formation: The culture-identity link and identity capital. Journal of Adolescence, 1996.
  • L Craig-Bray, GR Adams, WR Dobson, Identity formation and social relations during late adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 1988.
  • MC Boyes, M Chandler, Cognitive development, epistemic doubt, and identity formation in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 1992.
  • MD Berzonsky, Self-construction over the life-span: A process perspective on identity formation. Advances in personal construct theory, 1990.
  • RB Hall, (Reviewer) Uses of the Other: 'The East' in European Identity Formation (by IB Neumann) University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1999. 248 pages. ISBN 0816630828 International Studies Review Vol.3, Issue 1, Pages 101-111
  • RM Sabatelli, A Mazor, Differentiation, individuation, and identity formation. Adolescence, 1985.
  • SJ Schwartz, WM Kurtines, MJ Montgomery, A comparison of two strategies for facilitating identity formation processes in emerging adults. Journal of Adolescent Research, 2005.
  • T Postmes, SA Haslam, RI Swaab, Social influence in small groups: An interactive model of social identity formation. European Review of Social Psychology, 2005.
  • VC Cass, Homosexual identity formation: a theoretical model. J Homosex, 1979.
  • VC Cass, Homosexual identity formation: Testing a theoretical model. Journal of Sex Research, 1984.
  • VC Cass, Sexual orientation identity formation: A Western phenomenon. Textbook of homosexuality and mental health, 1996.
  • WR Penuel, JV Wertsch, Vygotsky and identity formation: A sociocultural approach. Educational Psychologist, 1995.