Identity and agency in emerging adulthood: Two developmental routes in the individualisation process

Seth J. Schwartz, James E. Côté, Jeffrey Jensen Arnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

439 Scopus citations


The study of emerging adulthood - the prolonged transition to adulthood extending into the 20s-is a rapidly growing area of research. A (though identity issues are prominent during this period, the role of personal agency and individualization in the identity formation process during these years is not well understood. This study examines three psychological aspects of identity formation (style, status, and process) in relation to personal agency associated with the individualization process. Structural equation modeling analyses suggest that higher levels of agency are positively related to exploration and flexible commitment, unrelated to conformity, and negatively related to avoidance. Cluster analysis was used to examine and support a theorized polarity between developmental and default forms of individualization. Replicated across three U.S. ethnic groups, the results suggest that emerging adults utilize agentic capacities to varying degrees, and that the degree of agency utilized is directly related to the coherence of the emerging adult's identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-229
Number of pages29
JournalYouth and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • Agency
  • Emerging adulthood
  • Ethnicity
  • Identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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