Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Adolescents’ Identity and Family Processes: A Conceptual and Empirical Model

Charles B. Hennon, Gary W. Peterson.

Adolescent identity, or the answer of youth to the important developmental issue “Who Am I?,” results from many social influences. The family, and particularly parents, are among the most important influences on adolescents’ identity development that shape both one’s sense of belonging (i.e., our connections with others) and sense of individuality. As part of adaptive identity development, adolescents must forge a balance between affirming their connections with others and a sense of their own uniqueness.

Adolescents around the globe face what indeed may be a general developmental task of balancing autonomy and belongingness. How and in what specific way adolescents establish this balance may vary across cultures. Those youth who accomplish this task manage to balance these seemingly opposing attributes in a culturally distinctive manner. Competent adolescents forge this balance by affirming the complementary, not the antagonistic, linkages between autonomy and interpersonal belonging.

The quality of family interactions, including parental socialization behavior, parental authority, and parent-adolescent conflict, help to shape the nature of this complementary balance in identity components. Such aspects of family life as parental divorce, remarriage and other stressors also influence how adolescents balance autonomy and connectedness as part of their identity development. Concepts from symbolic interaction, phenomenological, and identity theories will be used to develop a theoretical model of this developmental process. Illustrative empirical data will be presented from samples of adolescents from the People’s Republic of China and the United States.


Charles B. Hennon  (United States)
Professor of Family Studies
Department of Family Studies and Social Work
Miami University

Gary W. Peterson  (United States)

Miami University

  • Adolescent identity
  • Family and parental influences
  • Autonomy and connectedness
  • Belongingness

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)