Issues regarding identity development

Posted on February 2, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I think it’s important to be aware of the feelings and subsequent behaviors that are often reflections of students at  various stages of identity development. I don’t think it is important to memorize or remember the names of every stage, particularly because identity development lies along a continuum, but being able to recognize students who are in the process of moving between stages can be very helpful in providing guidance or proper referrals. An example of this would be understanding that a student who is in the process or realizing their identity as an oppressed person or a person who has oppressed others can bring about feelings of anger, confusion, depression, and hopelessness. These feelings can result in dangerous behaviors including heavy drinking, drug use, self-inflicted violence, etc. If I am worried about a student dealing with such issues I will need to know the proper referrals to make. Students who are in the process of embracing their identity(s) may exhibit feelings of happiness, fulfillment, self-confidence, and extreme enthusiasm. In this situation, students may be interested in helping to create programming dedicated to cultural diversity on campus or mentor other underrepresented students in order to ensure their success.

It’s also important that I understand the psychosocial component of identity development. I many respects students from non-traditional populations do not intrinsically feel or choose the groups or identities they are associated with. In many respects this means that identity development is much more a matter of coming to terms with how the world identifies a person and then deciding how much of that identity a person chooses to accept. An important piece of this puzzle with regards to students comes when they realize that the various affiliations  that they need/want to be a part of  will automatically influence the way other people choose to identify them. Helping students think through these concepts and also reflect on the intrinsic values that they posses and how to go about expressing them is of huge importance in order to address the psychosocial component of identity development.

Lastly, I think it is important to recognize that each student will deal with and proceed through stages of identity development in different ways. Different stimuli will cause different amounts and types of growth in different students and students will seek out diverse resources in order to reflect upon and cope with the stresses associated with this development. While it is important to watch out for the larger themes mentioned above, it will ultimately be my ability to address each student’s feelings, behaviors, and choices regarding their identities with respect, honesty, and an open mind that will make me an effective student affairs professional.


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