Although traditional theory espouses that adolescents are primarily responsible for developing their own identify, a new article reveals that parental involvement can play a role in their children’s identity formation.
Elli Schachter, PhD, of Bar Ilan University and Jonathan Ventura of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, studied parents, adolescents, and educators affiliated with the Orthodox Jewry in Israel.
Researchers documented and described parents that invested a great amount of time and effort thinking about their children’s identity, even fashioning their own lives with their children’s future identities in mind.
In the larger ongoing study on context and identity within the Jewish Orthodox community, over 70 life-story interviews were collected with unrelated adolescents, parents, and educators. The 20 parenting narratives in the study were collected in the same manner and most interviews took two sessions of 90 minutes each.
According to the researchers, “In the first part of the interview, the interviewees are asked to freely narrate their childhood and adolescent life story with particular emphasis on themes of religious development and on interactions with parents. In the second part, the interviewees are asked to continue their life-story with particular emphasis on them as parents: on the history of relations with their children in general and surrounding issues of religiosity in particular.”
The parents demonstrated the extent to which they saw themselves as active participants in their children’s identity formation.
They reflected on how best to form relationships with their children, what environments to choose for their children that would best serve some vision of what they hope their children will become, and how they hope their children will come to see themselves.
Such thinking and planning can be very complex, taking into account broad sociocultural factors, personal psychological dynamics, and ethical concerns.
However, parents did not act as mere socializing agents, blindly attempting to reproduce traditional values and roles within their children. Rather, they took a complex view, respecting their children’s agency while also taking broader, social and cultural perspectives into account.
“Research on identity within the field of psychology should broaden its focus to include a wider unit of analysis than the solitary individual,” the authors conclude.
“Such a focus will empower parents and educators to take a more conscious, positive, and active though careful role in the identity formation of youth while previously such a role may have been understood and portrayed as ‘out-of-bounds.’”
The researchers discovered the following six components of identity agency — that is, parents’ interest in helping to forward their teen’s development.
- Identity concern: Parents are concerned with issues of the youth’s developing social and ego identity.
- Goals: Parents have goals regarding identity development — either concerning favored identity content and specific social identities or even implicit goals regarding favored ego-identity structure and course of development.
- Praxis: Parents act upon such concern and responsibility,implementing practice intended to further their goals.
- Assessment: Parents assess both the youth and his or her sociocultural context in order to better address their role as mediator of identity.
- Implicit theory: Parents hold implicit psychological theories regarding identity development that guide practice.
- Reflexivity: Parents reflect on goals and practice, reassessing and refining both.
The results of the investigation are published in the in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.
Source: Blackwell Publishing