This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Linkages Between Identity Formation, Romantic Relationship Attachment, and Life Role Salience Among Young Adult Women




Malone, Kristy

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


Several important developmental processes occur in the young adulthood period. Young adults must form their identities, determine trajectories regarding careers, marriage, and parenthood (as well as the importance of these roles), and typically they form romantic relationships. The existing literature is rich in information regarding each of these processes, yet there are no studies to date that specifically examine the intersection of all three areas. The primary goal of the present investigation was to determine the nature of the linkages between identity development (measured by identity style, exploration, and commitment), romantic relationship attachment (measured by levels of avoidance and anxiety), and life role salience (using the roles of marriage, parenthood, and career). The data for this study were based on a sample of female undergraduate students at a southeastern university (n = 656). Results indicated that relationship avoidance and anxiety were negatively associated with identity commitment, and were positively related to diffuse/avoidant identity style, as was hypothesized. Additionally, the hypothesis that marital role salience would be negatively related to avoidance was supported. Among the general patterns regarding life role salience, information identity style and commitment were positively related to career role salience, normative style was positively related to marital role salience, and diffuse/avoidant style was negatively related to the salience of all three life roles. After examining the life role salience variables as potential moderators of identity and attachment, career role salience moderated the association between commitment and anxiety, and the association between diffuse/avoidant style and anxiety. In ii addition, marital life role salience moderated the relationship between normative style and avoidance. Overall, the present study provides compelling evidence that identity formation, determination of life role salience, and romantic relationship attachment are interrelated processes. Possible directions for future research are discussed.