Adolescent Identity Development and Distress in a Clinical Sample




The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships of identity development and identity distress to psychological adjustment within adolescents affected by psychological problems.


Participants included 88 adolescents (43.2% female) ranging from 11 to 20 years of age who were receiving services from a community mental health center.


A high proportion of the participants (22.7%) met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition Text Revision criteria for Identity Problem. Regression analyses found psychopathology symptom score was associated with identity distress, identity exploration, and identity commitment, while identity distress was only related to psychopathology symptom score and not the other two identity variables.


Adolescents with a clinical diagnosis may report significant levels of identity distress. Given that the relationship between psychopathology and identity distress may be reciprocal, assessing for identity issues might be prudent when conducting clinical diagnostic interviews and useful in treatment planning.