Identity Development, The Teenage Years

Updated: Sep 24, 2019

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. 

-Ralph Waldo Emerson 


According to Erik Erickson’s theory of social development, the teenage years, roughly between 12-18 years of age, are a time when kids are searching and starting to develop their social identity. This search involves an intense exploration of values, beliefs, and goals. 

Within a teens overall social identity are the many social environments that help to define who they are and how they interact with others. For example, they are a friend, a son/daughter, brother/sister, basketball player, student, and volunteer.    

This phase of social development is a time of transition from childhood to adulthood. As a result, a teens social environments help them to learn to gain self confidence, independence, a feeling of self worth, and how they will fit in and contribute to society as adults.

There will be moments when one social identity can overshadow others, like athletics taking priority over academics.

The success that a teen achieves in a social environment shouldn’t overshadow who they are as a person. 

Tips to manage the teen years:

Find balance. There will be moments in time when one or a few social environments take priority.

Find time to make up for it. For example, when the spring sport season comes to and end and schools out for summer, take time to reconnect with friends you haven’t seen in a while, spend some quality time with a sibling, and/or volunteer in your community. 

Self Awareness. Be aware of all your social environments and see which ones make you happy, nurture, and challenge you to be better. Also, identify the toxic environments in your life and reflect on why you are holding on to those environments versus letting them go.

Self Worth. Don’t let holding one social environment define who you are  as a person. For example, being a great athlete doesn’t make you great person. It’s what you do, not who you are. 

All good things come to an end. There will come a time when your sports career come to an end. If you focused on balancing your social environments and personal interests, letting go becomes a celebration, and the challenge of change is a welcomed adventure. 

Find that balance and don’t let fear tie you down to one thing. And, be willing to constantly define and redefine who you are, how you interact and treat others, what you value, and have the curiosity to learn new things! 

In the end, your personal values and character define you!

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