Yesterday I felt confident about being a history major, but today I’m not so sure. I’m thinking I should maybe do something more practical, like engineering. The more I talk to people and the more I read about careers that are in demand, the more I change my mind. I thought that when I turned 20, I would have all this figured out, but so far that’s not the case. I feel like I reconsider my major every day -- is there something wrong with me?

No. Research with adolescents finds day-to-day fluctuations in identity. And the more they experience this seesawing, the less stable their identity is, with lower the levels of our commitment and the higher the levels of reconsideration or exploration (Klimstra et al., 2010).

Yet keep in mind that low commitment and high exploration describe the Moratorium identity status. And it might be reassuring to know that a review of the research shows that the proportion of adolescents in a Moratorium (compared to the proportion in a Diffusion, Foreclosed, or Achievement status) increases until 19 years of age on average (Kroger, Martinussen, & Marcia, 2010). Remember too that exploration is necessary for achievement.

So all that seesawing is like saving for a rainy day, sometimes painful in the present, but rewarding in the future.                       

If you would like to read more, please see:

Klimstra, T. A., Luyckx, K., Hale, W. W., III, Frijns, T., van Lier, P. A. C., & Meeus, W. H. J. (2010). Short-term fluctuations in identity: Introducing a micro-level approach to identity formation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(1), 191-202.

Kroger, J., Martinussen, M., & Marcia, J.E. (2010). Identity status change during adolescence and young adulthood: A meta-analysis. Journal of Adolescence, 33, 683-698.

About the Author

Kristine Anthis, Ph.D.

Kristine Anthis, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at Southern Connecticut State University. She is the author of Lifespan Development, Sage Publications.

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