This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Identity Development: Implications for Intimacy in Emerging Adulthood




Barnett, Brittney

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Special Education, Rehabilitation, Counseling


Nationwide reports indicate loneliness is at epidemic levels, with younger demographics between the ages of 18-37 years old the most impacted (Cigna, 2020). Meaningful connections appear to work to decrease these reported feelings of loneliness (DiJulio et al., 2018; Cigna, 2020; Soulsby & Bennett, 2015), yet there are indications that Americans are feeling less connected (Cigna, 2020). This highlights the need to explore the underlying factors impacting individuals’ abilities to make meaningful connections. According to Erikson (1959), identity development in adolescence is critical to intimacy development in emerging adulthood, suggesting that a failure to form healthy identities and intimate relationships may lead to stereotypical or superficial relationships and feelings of isolation (Boyd & Bee, 2006). The purpose of this study was to explore the implications of identity development on intimacy development in emerging adults. Additionally, this study sought to examine whether intimacy development corresponded to lower levels of reported loneliness and higher reports of quality of relationships in emerging adults. The study found identity level to be a predictor of level of intimacy. Additionally, the study found levels of intimacy development to be a predictor of lower levels of loneliness and higher quality of relationships. These findings underscore the implications of intimacy development on overall well-being and suggest that counselors may need to consider clients’ identity development when treating issues with intimacy in emerging adults.