Comparing psychological and sociological approaches to identity: Identity status, identity capital, and the individualization process

James E. Côté, Seth J. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

132 Scopus citations


Psychologists have been studying identity processes at the intrapsychic level that resemble what sociologists have noted at the macro-societal level. Specifically, using the identity capital model introduced in previous issues of this journal (Côté, Journal of Adolescence, 19, 419-430; 20, 421-437), we explore a link between the psychologically oriented identity status paradigm, and the sociologically oriented individualization theory. The primary link between these two disciplinary approaches appears to be that the individualization process can be operationalized in terms of agency in identity formation. The relationship between agency and identity formation has been recognized by identity status researchers for some time, but primarily in terminology referring to the intrapsychic level; hence, in some respects, identity status researchers anticipated individualization theory. This link was empirically investigated in three studies of ethnically diverse samples. It was concluded, with a high degree of replication, that the identity statuses representing identity confusion (Diffusion) and identity synthesis (Achievement) appear to represent forms of default and developmental individualization, respectively. This comparison of similar elements between psychological and sociological perspectives may yield a richer understanding of identity formation processes, and help to pave the way for future interdisciplinary research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-586
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2002


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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