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Ego identity status in mid to late adolescence: their presence in university students and

correlation between Moratorium stage with well-being and Achievement stage with future

success using EOMEIS II and PWI

Gabriela Sarmiento

RMIT University
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Abstract

The aim of this study was to examine the presence of ego identity status among Australian

university students and the correlation of Moratorium with well being and Achievement with

future security using the EOMEIS II and PWI. Identity status scores were examines for 232

(176 female, 56 male) Australian university students aged between 18 and 25 years old. The least

common Ego Identity Stage was Foreclosure, there was a strong negative correlation between

Moratorium and well- being and a strong positive correlation between future security and

Achievement. The questionnaires were filled online.


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Ego identity status in mid to late adolescence: their presence in university students and

correlation between Moratorium stage with well-being and Achievement stage with future

success using EOMEIS II and PWI

The main goal in adolescence is to find our own identity, which may encompass religious

beliefs, career or occupational goals, cultural and ethnical background, along with sexual and

physical identity (Clark & Justice, 2008). The search to fit in adult society can generate great

stress in adolescence, since they try to obtain a job and become citizens while trying to maintain

a sense of continuity with them-selves (Erikson, 19S6, 1963). Minority adolescents who suffer

from racism and inequity tend to avoid this by going into foreclosure or diffusion statuses

(Phinney and Kohatsu 1997). Marcia (1966, 1980) defined 4 ego identity status in adolescents:

foreclosure (commitment with little or no exploration of alternatives, usually following the steps

of their parental figures or the path set by them, people in this stage tend to be rigid, should they

parents desires and values become non functional they would feel threatened), achievement

(commitment chosen after exploration of alternatives, they have seriously considered all their

options and chose according to them even if his contradicts parental desires, when faced with

adversity they would not feel overwhelmed), moratorium (exploring alternatives with no

commitment chosen, they are in a state of crisis attempting to compromise between parental

desires and expectations, societys demand and their own abilities and desires, this tends to

generate a stress and concern in them regarding their future), and diffusion (no commitment and

no exploration of alternatives, they seem uninterested and not preoccupied with their future and

have an inconsequential outlook in which every option is as good as the other). Adams, Bennion

and Huh (1989) determine that the most advanced status is Achievement, followed by
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Moratorium, Foreclosure and Diffusion, therefore it can be assumed that the identity

achievement grows with age.. The tests most commonly used for this type of study have 2 main

separations in the questions, those regarding interpersonal areas and those regarding ideological

areas. To measure this we selected the most developed and validated questionnaire for measuring

identity status: the Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status II (EOMEIS-II), (Adams

et al., 1989)

Based on the previous information and taking into consideration that in modern cultures,

specially in developed, western countries, is becoming more and more common for sons and

daughters to focus on a career of their choosing it can be hypothesize that the least common

stage of identification in young adults studying at university is Foreclosure. It can also be

assumed, do to the high levels of stress managed in this stage, that students in the stage of

Moratorium will have a lower sense of personal well being in general, and that future security in

students highly correlates with them being in a stage of Achievement.


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Method

Participants. The 232 participants were students from Rmit University in Australia aged

between 18 and 25 years (with and average age of 20.25 and a standard deviation of 1.53), who

answered the questionnaire voluntarily. It should be noted that 75.9% (176 of 232) of the

participants were women.

Materials. To Asses the participants ego identity statuses the Extended Objective

Measure of Ego Identity Status-II (EOM-EIS-II), a paper-and-pencil test developed by Adams,

Bennion, and Huh (1989) was used. The presence or absence of exploration and commitment

were assessed within the following areas: standard of living, personal health, achieving in life,

spirituality religion, personal relations, personal safety, community correctness, and future

security. Each of the four identity statuses-diffusion, foreclosure, moratorium and identity

achievement -were represented by 12 items to which participants responded on a 6-point Likert

scale ranging from "strongly disagree" (1) to "strongly agree" (6). The identity status subscale

score is the average score from the ideological and the interpersonal subscale scores.

To measure subjective well being the Personal Wellbeing Index was used, a written or verbally

applicable test, which uses a scale from no satisfaction at all (0) to completely satisfied (10).

Procedure. For the realization of this study, the participants were first asked to volunteer

answering the questionnaire and were explained that it will hold no danger, physically or

emotionally, for them and that their privacy was not at risk since the personal information will be
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discarded once the questionnaire is done. Second the instructions for answering the questionnaire

were given you will have to log on blackboard and click on the link for the questionnaire, it will

take about 30 minutes please answer as truthfully as you can, your personal information will be

discarded after you finish. Third, once the deadline was met no more surveys could be filled and

the information was collected. Fourth, the information was analysed using SPSS in order to

obtain general statistical information and more detailed correlation information.


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Results

As shown in Table 1 the number of participants in a stage of Foreclosure whether it is

Ideological (15 of 232) or Interpersonal (12 of 232) is significantly lower than in the other stages

Table 1

Number of participants in each category (n= 232)

Status Number of % Of participants

participants
Ideological Diffusion 110 47.7
Ideological 15 6.5

Foreclosure
Ideological 84 36.2

Moratorium
Ideological 23 9.9

Achievement

Interpersonal 80 34.5

Diffusion
Interpersonal 12 5.2

Foreclosure
Interpersonal 109 47.0

Moratorium
Interpersonal 31 13.4

Achievement

As shown in Table 2 overall well being (PWI) shows a strong negative correlation (-.227,

with p < .000) with being in the stage of Moratorium

Table 2
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PWI average Moratorium


Pearson
PWI 1 -.227
Correlation
Sig. (2-tailed) .000
N 232 232

As shown in Table 3 Future Security has a strong positive correlation (.276, with p < .

000) with the stage of Achievement

Table 3
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Standar Persona Achievin Persona Persona Communit Future Spiritua

d of l health g in life l l safety y security lity

living relation connected religion

s ness
Achievem Pearson .244 .201 .305 .354 .237 .196 .276 .174

ent Correlati

on
Sig. (2- .000 .002 .000 .000 .000 .003 .000 .008

tailed)
N 232 232 232 232 232 232 232 232

Discussion:

Based on the results, all of the hypothesis previously stated can be accepted; this is in

accordance with the information obtained at the beginning of the study. Although It should be

noted that despite of what was stated by Adams et al. (1989) a large portion of the participants

are still in a stage of diffusion, this can due to the fact that the mean age was 20, which,

according to new studies where late adolescence is along the mid twenties, can be considered

still mid adolescence. For future studies the methodological limitations should be taken into

account, this limitations are: given that the investigators have no way of proving the validity of

the results reported, these cannot be a 100% trusted, the high level of subjectivity of the

questions in the various questionnaires is also a limitation regarding the validity of this findings

and last due to physical and geographical constrains the vast majority of the participants are of

Australian nationality and therefore there is a no representation of different cultures from around

the world who may have different consideration regarding what constitutes each of the Status. So

it is recommended for future investigators to try and obtain the most culturally varied

participants as possible, in order to make the results of these studies widely applicable. All that
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being said the study can help therapist, psychologist and other people in similar positions

understand, and therefore better help, university students in this stressful and defining stage of

their life.
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References:

Adams, G. R., Bennion, L., & Huh, K. (1989). Objective measure of ego identity status: A

reference manual. Unpublished manuscript, University of Guelph, Canada

Clark, E. G., Justice, E. M., (2008). Identity Development - Aspects of Identity, Child

Development Reference - Vol 4

Erikson, E. H. The problem of ego identity. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association,

1956, 4, 56-121.

Erikson, E. H. Childhood and society. (2nd ed.) New York: Norton, 1963

Marcia, J. E. (1966). Development and validation of ego identity status. Journal of Personality

and Social Psychology, 3, 551-558.

Marcia, J. E. (1980). Identity in adolescence. In J. Adelson (Ed.), Handbook of adolescent

psychology (pp. 159-187). New York: Wiley.

Phinney, J., Kohatsu, E. L., (1997), Ethnic and Racial Identity Development and Mental Health.

In John Schulenberg, Jennifer Maggs, and Klaus Hurrelmann eds., Health Risks and

Developmental Transitions during Adolescence. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University

Press,