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Identity Development, The Teenage Years

Updated: Oct 19

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. 

-Ralph Waldo Emerson 


According to Erik Erickson’s theory of social development, the teenage years, roughly between 12-18 years of age, are a time when kids hone in on developing their social identity. This search involves an exploration of values, beliefs, and goals. 

This phase of development is a time of transition from childhood to adulthood. As a result, a teen's social environments help them to learn, gain self confidence, independence, and feelings of self worth. Teens experience a multitude of social environments on a daily basis. This includes being a son/daughter, a brother/sister, an athlete, a student, a volunteer, and a friend. It's within these social environments that teens develop and define their social identity.

Tips to manage the teen years:


Find balance. There will be moments in time when one or a few social environments take priority. Find time to balance it out. For example, when a teen's spring sport season comes to an end, she can take time to reconnect with friends she hasn’t seen in a while. 

Self Awareness. Be aware of your social environments and see which ones make you happy, nurture you, and challenge you to be better. Then, identify the negative environments in your life and reflect on why you are holding on to those environments versus deciding to let them go. Deciding how to move forward can be scary. Yet, taking a leap of faith can be rewarding. It's what keeps you moving forward and allows you to grow.

Self Worth. All good and bad experiences are part of the process of developing your self worth. For example, there will come a time when your sports career comes to an end. If you focused on balancing your social environments and personal interests, letting go becomes a celebration, and the challenge of change is a welcomed part of the journey. 


Find that balance and don’t let the fear of the unknown tie you down. Be willing to constantly define and redefine who you are, how you interact and treat others, what you value, and have the curiosity to learn new things!  In the end, social experiences help you to better understand who you are and to define your personal values and character!

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