Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Development and Family Studies

Department name when degree awarded

Family and Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Gerald R. Adams


Gerald R. Adams


Brent Miller


Edna Berry


Jay Schvaneveldt


Frank Ascione


The formation of a sense of personal identity is a major task of adolescence. An adolescent's experimentation with roles is carried out in social interactions, the family being one important context for development. Research evidence suggests that the family's ability to tolerate individuality and maintain connectedness has implications for the process of identity formation.

The purpose of this study was to identify family relations factors that facilitate or inhibit patterns of identity development during middle adolescence (high school years). Self-report and observational data were obtained from 49 families with middle adolescents to tap behaviors conceptualized as enabling or constraining individuality and connectedness. Mothers, fathers, and adolescents (29 females, 20 males) completed two questionnaires assessing their perceptions of child-rearing behaviors within the parent-adolescent dyad: the Parent-Adolescent Relationship Questionnaire (PARQ) and Ellis, Thomas, and Rollins subscales. Perceptions of family system functioning were measured by FACES II. All three family members participated in a family interaction task, and observed social interaction behaviors were coded by nonfamily members. Adolescents completed an ego identity questionnaire (EOM-EIS) in the first and third years of the study. Based upon changes in identity status, adolescents were categorized as progressive, stable, or regressive. Family relations factors were then compared for each of these three groups.

Results identify several child-rearing perceptions and social interaction variables as factors associated with progressive or regressive identity development. Fathers' perceptions of moderate levels of affection in the father-adolescent relationship appear to facilitate identity development, while high levels of companionship and support are inhibiting factors. Adolescents' perceptions of a moderate level of withdrawal in the father-adolescent relationship are another facilitative factor. Lower proportions of fathers' and adolescents' enabling individuality behaviors appear to inhibit development, as do high proportions of enabling connectedness behaviors by both parents. The results from both perceptual and behavioral data support the notion that to facilitate identity exploration during middle adolescence, there needs to be a balance of expression of individuality and moderate connectedness in the family environment.