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Identity Theory and the Young Adult Transition. Participant Guide. Jonathan Trinidad, M.A., Ph.D. Candidate Department of Sociology New York State University at Buffalo Michael Farrell, Ph.D., Department Chair Department of Sociology New York State University at Buffalo.

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Identity theory and the young adult transition l.jpg

Identity Theory and the Young Adult Transition

Participant Guide

Jonathan Trinidad, M.A., Ph.D. CandidateDepartment of SociologyNew York State University at BuffaloMichael Farrell, Ph.D., Department ChairDepartment of SociologyNew York State University at Buffalo

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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The Young Adult Transition

A. Questions

B. Basics

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The Young Adult Transition

A. Questions

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The Young Adult Transition

B. Basics

1. Rise of the Young Adult Transition as a stage of life

- The period of life between adolescence and adulthood has often been referred to as the Young Adult Transition.

- Continued education, growth of the period of non-family living, delaying marriage and childbirth are major factors that have contributed to the creation on the young adult transition as a stage of life

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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I don’t want to work yet. I don’t want to get married yet. I don’t want kids yet. I don’t want to live with my family anymore. Eventually. Just not now. Not yet.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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2. Rates of Success

  • Research suggests the ease and success of the young adult transition varies by race and ethnicity.

- Hardships in identity formation during adolescent development may account for future socio-economic status discrepancies along racial and ethnic lines as young individual transition into paid work.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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More rates.

- Research done in the last decade and a half indicates that African Americans are more likely than whites to come through the young adult transition in ways that can negatively affect later life development.

- There is less research on the social-psychological factors accounting for differences in young adult transition by race.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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3. The Young Adult Transition and Identity Theory

- The strength of social-psychological research on identity development during the young adult transition lies in its potential to provide guidelines that prevent problematic adjustments in young adulthood.

- Two important social psychological concepts reviewed in this handbook are identity salience and identity control.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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How do individuals navigate through this period of life? How can we improve identity formation?

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Burke’s Identity Control

A. Questions

B. Basics

C. Application

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Burke’s Identity Control

A. Questions

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Burke’s Identity Control

B. Basics

- Identity theories are important becausethey help explain and predict behavior.

- Why is one individual likely to behave functionally in a social situation? Why is another individual likely to behave dysfunctional in the same social situation?

- Burke argues that identities are control systems that guide individuals by limiting the range of acceptable behavior.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Burke’s Identity Control

B. Basics

1. Identity Standards

- An identity standard is the collection of ideal expectations for a given identity.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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More than stereotypes. More than individual beliefs.

- Identity standards are generated by society and the self.

- That is, they reflect both the cultural and personal expectations of a given identity.

- They allow for self expression and social responsibility.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Individuals modify their behavior to achieve a match with their identity standard.

- Identity standards work as control systems. They control behavior by encouraging action that is consistent with the standard, and discouraging inconsistent action.

- Said another way, identity standards outline the boundaries of acceptable behavior.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Consider the identity standard for a parent. What are the ideal behaviors associated with the parent identity?

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2. Input

- By taking in information, individuals conceptualize the identity standard.

- Input is any contextual information about the situation.

- Input aids in the understanding of what the ideal expectations are for a given identity.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Am I appropriately dressed for the situation? How does my attire compare with those around me?

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3. Output

- Output is an individual’s behavior. It is the totality of an individual’s observable actions.

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Whistling while you work is a form of output. So is putting your feet on your desk.

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4. Comparator

- The comparator is the part of the control system that evaluates input in relation to the identity standard in order to produce appropriate output.

- Sometimes the input and identity standard match. Sometimes the input and identity standard are at odds.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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This is embarrassing. I need a tie. I’m underdressed.

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5. Summary

- Identity standards, input, output, and the comparator.

- Gather information, comparing the actual with the ideal, and changing the way we act are part of the control process.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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We learn to keep our desk at least as neat as our neighbor’s.

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6. Diagram

- In the following diagram, two individuals are interacting. Each is going through the process of comparing input against their identity standard. Output is modified accordingly to gain favorable input from the other.

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6. Diagram (continued)

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Burke’s Identity Control

C. Applications

- Let’s review a few of the many applied benefits and implications of Burke’s work.

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1. Skewed identity standards may lead to mal-adjusted behavior.

- Since individuals compare their behavior against this ideal standard, it vitally important that the identity standard is properly conceptualized.

- Not all identity standards are created equal.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Fathers are suppose to protect. Aren’t they?

  • For example, if a man believes the ideal father protects his family from any and all possible harm, he may develop an overly skewed and sensitive identity standard, and may become over-protective and deny his family basic freedoms.

- He may not lets his wife drive the car, let his kids visit their friends’ homes, or allow them to play sports.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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How do stereotypes influence identity standards?

- Let’s consider examples involving racial identity standards. A young African American may develop an identity standard that black men and women excel at sports, as evidence by their success in professional and local sports.

- The problem with stereotypes has always been that people often believe them to be true in all cases. That is, stereotypes often become overly rigid, and individuals are judged against standards that don’t reflect their individuality.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Don’t ever leave the house. It’s too dangerous out there.

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We consider how others use stereotypes against us. Have we considered how we use stereotypes against ourselves?

- Take into account how individuals may develop skewed identity standards that over emphasize culturally prescribed stereotypes.

- The young African American child for example, may behave super stereotypically because of an over-emphasized black identity standard.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Ultimately, promoting positive behavior begins with promoting a positive identity standard.

- In the same way a skewed identity standard results in skewed output and behavior, so too does a well conceptualized identity standard result in well adjusted behavior.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Questions you might ask yourself.

- How does the a client’s identity standard affect output. - Is the identity standard skewed?

- How did the individual develop that identity standard? - What are the sources of influences?

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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More questions you might ask yourself.

- In what ways is the identity standard beneficial and/or destructive to the individual?

- If the identity standard ultimately produces destructive behavior, how can a more positive standard be fostered?

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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2. Failure to achieve the identity standard may lead to stress, frustration, and depression.

- When input is inconsistent with the identity standard, individuals modify their output until favorable input is restored.

- For example, the office worker who realizes that co-workers are unimpressed with his sneakers may wear different shoes hoping for a better response.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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We learn not to tell a bad jokes.

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Stressed out.

- Sometimes individuals are unable to achieve favorable input that affirms the identity standard no matter how many times they modify their output.

- This kind of failure to achieve the identity standard may lead to stress, frustration, and depression as in the case of the young office worker that can’t find appropriate clothing to wear to work.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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I’m so stressed out because I can never find suitable work clothes. I always feel underdressed.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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The severity of the stress and depression

  • How important is the identity standard?

- What is the degree of inconsistency?

- What is the frequency of inconsistency?

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Don’t wear a ball gown to a casual dinner party.

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3. Mistakes can be made while conceptualizing a new identity standard.

- When entering a new context, individuals may be unfamiliar with the appropriate identity standards.

- As a result, the identity control cycle lacks guidelines by which to evaluate action.

- The lack of a reference point to compare one’s action to can lead to inappropriate (but unintentional) behavior.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Inappropriate behavior is always inappropriate, but not always intentional.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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The next adventure in identity research.

  • We now focus our attention to Sheldon Stryker’s theory of Identity Salience.

- Burke explains how behavior is controlled by identity standards. Stryker explains which identity standards are the most important in a situation.

- That is, given a range of acceptable identity standards, why is one chosen in particular?

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Stryker’s Identity Salience

A. Questions

B. Basics

C. Application

D. Case Scenarios: The Young Adult Transition, Race and Ethnicity

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Stryker’s Identity Salience

A. Questions

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Stryker’s Identity Salience

B. Basics

- Stryker asks, Given a range of acceptable identity standards, which do individuals choose to express the standards they do?

- Why is one identity standard expressed when others are equally available?

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Why pay attention? Why not take a break?What’s motivating you to stay in your seat?

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Promote the identity associated with the desired behavior.

- To understand Stryker’s work, we need to discuss concepts such as statuses, roles, identities, identity salience, salience hierarchy, and commitment.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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1A. Statuses

- Identity theorists have long posited that society is composed of statuses or recognized social positions that an individual occupies.

- Think of a status as a title or position that comes with expected behaviors.

- That is, we expect a person with the status of professor to behave a particular way.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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1B. Roles

  • A role is the set of expected behaviors for a given status.

- For example, an individual may have the student status and as a result, is expected to perform the student role which includes going to school, reading, writing, and studying.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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You’re a parent. Why don’t you act like one?

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2. Identity Salience

- In some cases, an individual may get so imbedded in a status/role that it becomes a salient identity.

- The individual enacts the status/role in situations where it is not required.

- The individual cannot separate himself/herself from the social position or the associated behavior.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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What’s going on when a grandmother pinches a grown man’s cheek? Or when a librarian alphabetizes his food pantry?

- A librarian is required to alphabetize books at work, not food at home.

- When an individual enacts a status/role in situations where it is not required, it is said to be a salient identity.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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What’s going on when a professor lectures his young children?

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3. Things you should know before we move on.

- First, every individual has a unique collection of status/roles.

  • Second, every individual’s collection of status/roles is based on the positions they fill in society. The more positions an individual fills in society, the more complex the collection of status/roles.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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The professor is also a mother and a volunteer. The lawyer is also a cook and artist. The cashier is also a musician and student.

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And the third thing you should know…

  • Not all status/roles are equal.

- Said another way, not all identities are equally salient.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Two professors. Both mothers.

  • For the first mother, the professor identity might be more salient that the mother identity. As a result, she may lecture to her kids when a comforting hug would be more appropriate.

- For the second mother, the mother identity might be more salient. As a result, she may over-nurture her students when an academic lecture would be more appropriate.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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What determines the degree of salience for each identity?

- Identity salience is determined by the degree of commitment to an identity.

- That is, the more committed one is to an identity, the more salient it is, and the more likely that identity will be expressed in a situation regardless of its need.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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4. Commitment

- There are two forms of commitment that affect the level of salience: Quantitative and Qualitative commitment.

- Quantitative commitment measures how many other individuals are associated with a particular identity.

- The more people are associated with an identity, the higher the quantitative commitment.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Consider a boss in charge of five-hundred employees versus another in charge of five.

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Quantitative deals with quantity. Qualitative deals with quality.

  • Qualitative commitment is the second form of commitment.

- Qualitative commitment measures how important the individuals associated with a particular identity are.

- The more important the people are associated with an identity, the higher the qualitative commitment.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Does the professor continue to teach a class of three hundred students when she finds out her child is very sick?

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Quantitative and qualitative commitment aren’t independent of each other.

- Families are an example of both types of commitment.

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5. Salience Hierarchy

  • Stryker proposed arranging identities in a hierarchy of salience.

- Imagine unconsciously ranking all your status/roles on a ladder from most salient to least salient.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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How is salience hierarchy a good indicator of behavior?

  • If we can roughly conceptualize a person’s salience hierarchy, we are better able to predict how he/she will behave in a given situation.

- Salience hierarchies aren’t infallible, they merely systematize the way we think about behavior and allow us to make better educated predictions.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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As his boss, why wouldn’t you allow a very committed father but un-committed employee to work from a home office?

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6. Summary

  • Identity theorists argue that society is composed of statuses or recognized social positions.

- These statuses are associated with expected behaviors called roles. That is, we expect a person with a specific status to behave a particular way.

- In simplest terms, statuses are named positions associated with specific role behaviors.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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We expect the mail carrier to behave a certain way. The mail carrier status is associated with a specific role.

- Sometimes, an individual may become so embedded in a status/role that it becomes a salient identity. That is, the individual tends to act out the status/roles in situations where it is not required; the status/role is automatic.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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We collect status/roles based on the positions we fill in society.

  • Every individual has a unique collection of status/roles based on the positions they fill in society.

- More so, not all status/roles are equal. Some status/roles are more salient identities than others.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Quantity and quality count.

  • The level of salience towards a given identity is based on quantitative and qualitative commitment.

- Finally, since status/roles vary in the degree of salience we unconsciously attribute to them, Stryker argues that we can rank status/roles on a salience hierarchy from most salient to least salient.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Stryker’s Identity Salience

C. Applications

1. Combining Burke’s identity standards and Stryker’s identity salience.

- Ultimately, Stryker’s salience hierarchy is compatible with Burke’s identity standards. We can think of salience hierarchies as ranked identity standards, with those standards we are most committed to at the top and least committed to at the bottom.

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The master plan. A blueprint for behavior.

- What develops is an individual’s hierarchy of ideal types.

- An individual strives to achieve identity standards in the order they appear along the salience hierarchy.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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2. Organizing and Conceptualizing

It might be helpful to use your knowledge of Burke and Stryker in a two step process. First, try organizing and conceptualizing what you know about the scenario. Some questions you may ask yourself include:

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What do you know about the scenario?

-What are some of the status/roles available to the individual?

- Conceptualize individual’s identity standard for each status/role. That is, what does he/she believe is the ideal type for each identity?

- Why are the individual’s identity standards constructed as they are? What’s influencing his/her thoughts?

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Are the individual’s identity standards healthy?

  • Often times, our identity standards are influenced by our social networks. Describe the social circles. Biggest circle? The most important circle?

- Are the individual’s identity standards healthy? Are they skewed?

- Rank the individual’s identity standards. Conceptualize the salience hierarchy. Which identity is most salient?

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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3. Promoting Positive Action

After you’ve organized and conceptualized what you know about the scenario, consider methods for promoting positive action. Ask yourself, what’s preventing more favorable action? Some specific questions you might ask yourself include:

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What are your recommendations based on your experience and knowledge in the field?

  • What status/roles would the individual benefit from being exposed to? What opportunities for identity development is the individual under-valuing or lacking altogether?

- In what ways can you help re-conceptualize the individual’s skewed identity standards? What is it that the individual misinterpreting, failing to considering, or misunderstanding? How can you help promote a more realistic identity standard? How might that benefit the individual?

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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What will benefit the individual the most?

- If the individual’s social circles are negatively affecting the individual, how can you prevent the negative influence of his/her identity standards? Conversely, how can you promote the positive influence of his/her identity standards?

- Which identity do you believe should be most salient? Which identity will the individual benefit from the most?

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Stryker’s Identity Salience

D. Case Scenarios: The Young Adult Transition, Race and Ethnicity

Try organizing and conceptualizing what you know about the following scenario. Then, consider ways to promote positive action.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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1. Agatha

Agatha is 16 years old and wants to begin working in the “real world.” Although she is intelligent and has the potential to excel in school, her grades are mediocre, mostly due to her poor attendance and lack of motivation. Agatha, like her closest friends, can’t understand the point of an education and would rather drop out and begin working full time. They all plan on applying at the local grocery store.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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She has the potential to excel in school but is lacking motivation.

Ultimately, Agatha is eager to be independent, knows she wants to become a mother, knows she doesn’t want to become a wife, and believes finding a part-time job will be the first step towards becoming an adult. Her school guidance counselors blame the media for giving Agatha the glorified view of being a young, single, African American working mother. They believe Agatha is throwing away her natural intelligence for her unrealistic dream.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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At 16, she wants to be a mom.

In her spare time, Agatha likes to hang out at the neighborhood church where she is a member of the youth group. She hangs out with other teens her age, many of which are young single moms and/or employed. Agatha is a single child and lives with her mom in a low income community.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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2. Emily

Emily is 17 years old and is one of the best soccer players in her school’s division. She wants to follow in her parent’s footsteps by being a college athlete. Her school guidance counselor has already begun looking for athletic scholarships for her. Unfortunately, she has been overlooked by many colleges because her grades need improvement.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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She’s a star soccer player that can’t hold a job.

Emily maintains the bare minimum grades to maintain her sports academic eligibility. About the only thing she’s less invested in is her part-time job at McDonalds. She’s been working there for three weeks and is ready to quit. She’s had four different jobs in the last seven months.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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She hates being Filipino and avoids anyone who isn’t white.

Besides soccer, Emily believes she has little else going well for her. Emily is Filipino and gets picked on for her ethnicity. She wonders why people view her first as a Filipino, and second as a soccer player. Even her friends remind her she’s different by saying things likes she’s the, “Asian girl of the group.” It drives her nuts but she’s afraid to say something and risk losing her friends.

© 2005-2006 CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC College Relations Group


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Peer pressure gets her every time.

She has grown to hate her ethnicity and actively avoids family gatherings with other Filipinos, and at school she avoids anyone who isn’t white. Emily comes from a middle income family, has never been out on a date, and easily succumbs to peer pressure.

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End

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