This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Identity and Young Adult Well-being: A Closer Look at Identity Style and Identity Structure




Li, Cui

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


The current study examined identity from the Eriksonian perspective, where identity guides an individual’s experiences and future actions so as to promote the individual’s fit into society (Erikson, 1959, 1968). Identity styles proposed by Berzonsky (1989) focus directly on the process of identity formation and reflect the ongoing construction and revision of identity throughout the life cycle. The concept of identity style refers to the handling of problems related to identity and structure demonstrates that important identity domains and elements are integrated as a whole and serves the function of organizing one’s identity. An individual’s well-being (Ryff, 1989) indicates the extent to which a person fits within society. Very few studies in the literature have examined identity structure and well-being and no studies have tried to associate style, structure and well-being together. The purpose of the current study was to examine relations between identity style and identity structure (hierarchy and integration) and the associations between these two dimensions of identity and young adult well-being. Participants were 480 students recruited from a Southern university. It was found that a person’s preferred identity style (informational, normative, or diffuse) was consistent with the style used across domains at different levels of the identity hierarchy, and the salience of an identity domain appeared related to using the style most consistent with it. Informational and normative styles were found to be positively related to integration of structure, whereas diffuse style was negatively related to integration. Informational style was positively related to all indicators of well-being, and diffuse style showed the opposite pattern. Normative style was negatively related to autonomy, and positively related to positive relations with others and purpose in life. The salience of different identity domains also were related to well-being. Furthermore, identity structure integration was positively related to well-being, but only moderated the relationship between identity style and autonomy. In addition, gender moderated the relations between identity style and well-being. Implications for future research and directions are discussed.