Stability and Variability of Identity in Schoolchildren and Students

Keywords: identity, identity stability, identity variability, identity crisis, social identity, identity dynamics, gender identity, schoolchildren, students


Introduction. This paper considers identity crisis from the viewpoint of stability and variability of its main components. To that end, an exploratory study has examined a relatively unexplored issue of stability of certain components of identity in schoolchildren and university students when they represent their past and future in self-descriptions.

Methods. The study used the following techniques: (a) the Twenty Statements Test by Kuhn and McPartland, (b) Your Lifeline by Kronik, and (c) the Test of Kelly Personal Constructs (a modified version).

Results. The study discovered that schoolchildren use educational component of identity in their self-descriptions more often than personal and existential ones. In student respondents, the increase in the level of family identity is typically accompanied by the reduced level of identity related to membership in informal groups and activity component. Gender, educational-professional, family, and personal identity components are prevalent in both schoolchildren and students’ subjective representations of their lives. However, schoolchildren demonstrate a greater dynamics of subjective representations of the past. Self-descriptions related to personal identity are the most stable in students, whereas in schoolchildren the most stable are self-descriptions related to the social component. Events related to education, family, and membership in informal groups are stable components of the subjective image of the past and future in schoolchildren and students. Finally, the findings suggest that students have stable constructs related to personality traits, family status, interpersonal relationships, and educational and professional activities.

Discussion. The authors compare their findings with the works of Mazilova, Miklyaeva, Rumyantseva, Crocetti, Meeus, and Abdukeram. The paper analyzes and discusses the difference in findings of studies that exercised different conceptual approaches to the identity issue (e.g., a heavy reliance on a three-component model in the western researcher tradition) and were based on different samples with diverse cultural backgrounds.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Mikhail Yu. Kuzmin, Scientific Center for Family Health and Human Reproduction Problems, Irkutsk State University

кандидат психологических наук, доцент кафедры общей психологии ФГБОУ ВО «ИГУ»

Igor' A. Konopak, Irkutsk State University, Irkutsk, Russian Federation

кандидат философских наук, декан факультета психологии ФГБОУ ВО «ИГУ»


Belinskaya E. P. The variability of the self: an identity crisis or a crisis of knowledge about it? Psychological Studies, 2015, V. 8, no. 40, p. 12 (in Russian). Available at: (Accessed 01 March 2018).

Breakwell G. M. Resisting representations and identity processes. Papers on Social Representations, 2010, V. 19, pp. 6.1–6.11.

Markus H., Nurius P. Possible Selves. American Psychologist, 1986, V. 41, no. 9, pp. 954–969.

Ivanova N. L. Psikhologicheskaya struktura sotsial'noi identichnosti [Psychological structure of social identity]. Diss. Dr. Sci. (Psych.). Yaroslavl, 2003. 408 p.

Klimstra T. A., Hale III W. W., Raaijmakers Q. A. W., Branje S. J. T., Meeus W. H. J. Identity formation in adolescence: Change or stability? Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2010, V. 39, Issue 2, pp. 150–162. DOI: 10.1007/s10964-009-9401-4

Meeus W., van de Schoot R., Keijsers L., Schwartz S. J., Branje S. On the progression and stability of adolescent identity formation: A five-wave longitudinal study in early-to-middle and middle-to-late adolescence. Child Development, 2010, V. 81, Issue 5, pp. 1565–1581.

Crocetti E., Fermani A., Pojaghi B., Meeus W. Identity formation in adolescents from Italian, mixed, and migrant families. Child & Youth Care Forum, 2011, V. 40, Issue 1, pp. 7–23. DOI: 10.1007/s10566-010-9112-8

Mazilova G. B. Dinamika sotsial'noi identichnosti lichnosti v sovremennom obshchestve [Dynamics of social identity in modern society]. Diss. Cand. Sci. (Psych.). Yaroslavl, 2006. 203 p.

Rumyantseva T. V. Transformatsiya identichnosti studentov meditsinskogo vuza v menyayushchikhsya sotsial'nykh usloviyakh [Transformation of identity of medical university students in changing social conditions]. Diss. Cand. Sci. (Psych.). Yaroslavl, 2005. 219 p.

Kuhn M. H., McPartland T. S. The empirical investigation of self-attitude. American Sociological Review, 1954, V. 19, no. 1, pp. 68–76. DOI: 10.2307/2088175

Liders A. G. Psikhologicheskoe obsledovanie sem'i [Psychological examination of the family]. Moscow, Akademiya Publ., 2007. 432 p.

Kelly G. А. The psychology of personal constructs. London, Routledge, 1991. 447 p.

Ivanova N. L. Psychological analysis of social identity. Psikhologiya. Zhurnal Vysshei shkoly ekonomiki – Psychology. Journal of the Higher School of Economics, 2006, V. 3, no. 4, pp. 14–38 (in Russian).

Kuz'min M. Yu. Comparing identities of university students and primary and secondary schoolchildren. Sibirskiy psikhologicheskiy zhurnal – Siberian Journal of Psychology, 2015, no. 58, pp. 61–75 (in Russian). DOI: 10.17223/17267080/58/4

Kuzmin Yu. M. Dynamics of identities of primary and secondary schoolchildren and university students. Sibirskiy psikhologicheskiy zhurnal – Siberian Journal of Psychology, 2016, no. 62, pp. 54–66 (in Russian). DOI: 10.17223/17267080/62/5

Kuzmin M. Y. Comparison of identity and its dynamics in primary and secondary schoolchildren and university students. Rossiiskii psikhologicheskii zhurnal – Russian Psychological Journal, 2017, V. 14, no. 2, pp. 67–89 (in Russian). DOI: 10.21702/rpj.2017.2.4

Miklyaeva A. V., Rumyantseva P. V. Sotsial'naya identichnost' lichnosti: soderzhanie, struktura, mekhanizmy formirovaniya [The individual’s social identity: The content, structure, and formation mechanisms]. St. Petersburg, Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia Publ., 2008. 118 p.

Bosma H. A. Identity development in adolescence: Coping with commitments. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Groningen, the Netherlands: State University, 1985. 30 p. URL:'Identity_development_in_adolescence_coping_with_commitments'_thesis_1985 (Accessed 23 November 2018).

Abdukeram Z., Mamat M., Lou W., Wu Y. Influence of culture on tripartite self-concept development in adolescence: A comparison between Han and Uyghur cultures. Psychological Reports, 2015, V. 116, Issue 1, pp. 292–310. DOI: 10.2466/17.07.PR0.116k12w8

Tanti Ch., Stukas A. A., Halloran M. J., Foddy M. Tripartite self-concept change: Shifts in the individual, relational, and collective self in adolescence. Self and Identity, 2008, V. 7, Issue 4, pp. 360–379. DOI: 10.1080/15298860701665081

Sherif M., Sherif C. W. Reference groups: Exploration into conformity and deviation of adolescents. New York, Harper and Row, 1964. 370 p.

De Goede I. H. A., Branje S. J. T., Meeus W. H. J. Developmental changes and gender differences in adolescents’ perceptions of friendships. Journal of Adolescence, 2009, V. 32, Issue 5, pp. 1105–1123. DOI: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2009.03.002

Helsen M., Vollebergh W., Meeus W. Social support from parents and friends and emotional problems in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2000, V. 29, Issue 3, pp. 319–335. DOI: 10.1023/A:1005147708827

Stephanou G. Romantic relationships in emerging adulthood: Perception-partner ideal discrepancies, attributions, and expectations. Scientific Research, 2012, V. 3, no. 2, pp. 150–160. DOI: 10.4236/psych.2012.32023

Pisarenko N. V. Phenomenological analysis of the experience of the student’s self-identification in the social-psychological “image-training”. Sibirskii psikhologicheskii zhurnal – Siberian Journal of Psychology, 2002, no. 16–17, pp. 23–27 (in Russian).

Sitnikov V. L. Obraz rebenka v soznanii detei i vzroslykh [The image of the child in the minds of children and adults]. St. Petersburg, Khimizdat Publ., 2001. 288 p.

Addis D. R., Tippett L. Memory of myself: Autobiographical memory and identity in Alzheimer's disease. Memory, 2004, V. 12, Issue 1, pp. 56–74. DOI: 10.1080/09658210244000423

Feenstra D. J., Hutsebaut J., Verheul R., van Limbeek J. Identity: Empirical contribution: Changes in the identity integration of adolescents in treatment for personality disorders. Journal of Personality Disorders, 2014, V. 28, Issue 1, Special Issue: A Developmental Psychopathology Perspective on Personality Disorder, pp. 101–112. DOI: 10.1521/pedi.2014.28.1.101

Hughes D., Way N., Rivas-Drake D. Stability and change in private and public ethnic regard among African American, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Chinese American early adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 2011, V. 21, Issue 4, pp. 861–870. DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-7795.2011.00744.x

Ferguson Y. L., Ferguson K. T., Ferguson G. M. I am AmeriBritSouthAfrican-Zambian: Multidimensional remote acculturation and well-being among urban Zambian adolescents. International Journal of Psychology, 2017, V. 52, Issue 1, pp. 67–76. DOI: 10.1002/ijop.12191

Savin-Williams R. C., Joyner K., Rieger G. Prevalence and stability of self-reported sexual orientation identity during young adulthood. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2012, V. 41, Issue 1, pp. 103–110. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-012-9913-y
How to Cite
Kuzmin, M. Y., & Konopak, I. A. (2019). Stability and Variability of Identity in Schoolchildren and Students. Russian Psychological Journal, 15(4), 113-141.
Developmental Psychology