Forming a Personal Sense of Identity in the Contemporary World: Challenges and Difficulties
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This article considers some normative cultural changes that have contributed to the identity “crises” faced at least by persons living in Western cultures. Identity is conceptualized as a self-structure that provides a frame of reference for processing self-relevant information, answering questions about the meaning and purpose of one’s life, and regulating the processes that individuals use to cope and adapt in everyday life. Individuals living in the modern world characterized by accelerating technological, social, and economic changes face major challenges and problems as they attempt to form and maintain a coherent sense of personal identity. Not all people, however, deal with these identity confl icts in the same fashion. Research reveals reliable differences in how individuals negotiate or manage to avoid the tasks of constructing, maintaining, and reconstructing a sense of identity in the modern world. Three identity processing orientations are highlighted: informational, normative, and diffuse-avoidant. Although an informational processing orientation is associated with resources and skills that maximize adaptability in the modern world, those resources do not provide a set of values or frame of reference for deciding what goals people should commit to or what they should live for. Some of values used to justify identity choices in the modern world are considered.
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