What Is Identity Crisis During Adolescence?

The period during which adolescents develop a sense of identity is a challenging stage for adolescents. Adolescents going through the stage describe it as the years of discovery or finding themselves. During this period, many adolescents embrace change and identify a goal or a plan for the next stages of their lives. For some teens, this stage becomes a struggle, as they have difficulty understanding the changes their bodies are going through or have not achieved the sense of self-identity they need to move forward. This is known as an identity crisis. By understanding the adolescent identity crisis, it is possible to help your teen through this difficult stage.

Identity Crisis of Children Adopted or Displaced

Understand the identity crisis among adolescents who have been displaced or experienced some kind of trauma. Adopted adolescents experience loss and grief as they transition into families they are not familiar with. According to the Administration of Children and Families, “Adopted persons' questions about identity often occur first during adolescence. The task of identity development during adolescence is often more difficult for the adopted teenager because of the additional adoption issues."

Adolescents' Search for Idenity

Look closely at the family unit. Adolescents struggle with finding a unique identity when they are among other siblings. According to psychologist Stephen A. Johnson., "If the first child, for example, decides to be a serious intellectual, the second may seek individuality by becoming a jokester. Seeing these two places already taken, the third child may choose to be an athlete." Each child will look for individuality in their search for identity. When a child cannot find his own identity, an identity crisis will manifest.

Explain Traditions and Cultural Backgrounds

Provide a platform for identity growth by helping your teen understand who she is and her culture. Many adolescents follow family traditions and religious ceremonies without fully understanding why they do them or what they stand for. According to psychiatrist M.A.M. Khan, " The students of today also face an identity crisis. Immediately after [Indian] Independence, there was no identity crisis, because everyone took pride in being Indian."

Recognize the Adolescent's Reaction to Failure

Provide encouragement and security for the adolescent, especially when something has failed. The response to failure in some adolescents is anger toward family, political leaders or religious organizations. Some adolescents who are in crisis may become social drop-outs or turn to drugs and alcohol to deny that the problem exists.

Talk to Your Adolescent

Communicate with your teen and be available for open discussions when needed. An adolescent with an identity crisis can be an open book waiting to be written by outside influences or guided by someone who loves and cares for him. Helping your teen through this stage will build future bonds and strengthen the family unit.

Understand the Rebellion Stage

Identify rebellious behavior as your adolescent's struggle for uniqueness. Rebellion is outward frustration and a plea for attention by the adolescent in an identity crisis. Understand that the adolescent's rejection of family, school and society is usually temporary. Often, the rebellious behavior is found to be useless and quickly goes away.