Identity formation in Taiwanese and American college students
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Identity Formation is an important developmental task for adolescents (Erikson, 1968). Socio-cultural factors play an important role in identity process. However, little is known about how differing cultural goals may impact youth’s identity development. The goals of the study thus are designed to compare the identity development of youth in Taiwan, a collectivist culture, and youth in the United States, an individualistic culture. 275 Taiwanese and 171 American-White undergraduate college youth ranging from 18- 24 years old participated in the study. The EOM-EIS, Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale, Traitanxiety Inventory, Satisfaction with Life Scale, and a new scale assessing identity authenticity were implemented in the study. Findings revealed that being both independent and connected to others had an important influence on youth’s identity formation, and the two goals coexist within a culture. Gender and culture impacted the process of identity development. The complexity of culture is more adequately accounted for when gender is included as an explanatory variable. Taiwanese culture emphasized interpersonal issues more than ideological issues in youth identity formation. Americans rated higher in identity Achievement than did Taiwanese in the ideological domain only, but the difference was primarily accounted for by the lowered scores of Taiwanese women. Interpersonal issues were more important for women than for men, while ideological issues were more important for men than for women. However, men and women experienced these two issues differently as a result of differing cultural expectations. American women were more advanced in identity development in both domains. Taiwanese women were the least advanced. They also felt the least authentic in their identities, denoting a major compromise of their autonomy. American men were found to be particularly vulnerable to the passive self-images entailed by identity Diffusion. Taiwanese men only experienced the negative effects of identity Diffusion in the ideological domain. Identity Achievement predicted higher psychosocial well-being across cultures and genders. To have goals for both independence and connectedness met in the identity process is thus beneficial universally. Identity Achievement predicted higher identity authenticity, except for Taiwanese men, while identity Foreclosure predicted lower identity authenticity. The process of identity exploration is thus critical for finding one’s true self. Taiwanese youth’s identity Achievement was found to be influenced by a core cultural value, filial piety. The transitional nature of current Taiwan society also had impact on youth’s identity. Many Taiwanese youth were in prolonged identity Moratorium and Diffusion. However, moratorium in the ideology domain rendered no harmful effect as the ambiguity was the social norm. Future research directions and implications for social policies are recommended.