Erikson's writings on identity crises have been responsible for an extensive literature consisting of conceptual as well as empirical articles. Perhaps the most widely used application is Marcia's identity status paradigm, in which he conceptualized and operationalized Erikson's theory of identity development in terms of several statuses which result from exploration and commitment. By 1988, more than one hundred empirical studies had been generated from this paradigm, according to a review by Cote and Levine. The identity status paradigm provides a methodological procedure for determining identity statuses based on resolution of an identity crisis and the presence of commitments to an occupation and an ideology.
According to the Marcia paradigm, an ego identity can be one of several statuses consisting of achievement, foreclosure, moratorium, or diffusion. An achievement status indicates resolution of the identity crisis and firm commitments to an occupation and an ideology. In a foreclosure status, one has formed commitments but has not experienced a crisis. The moratorium status denotes that an identity crisis is being experienced, and no commit ments have been made. The diffusion status implies the absence of a crisis and no commitments. Much of the research has focused on identifying the personality characteristics associated with each of these statuses. Other studies have examined the interactional patterns as well as information-processing and problem-solving strategies. Achievement and moratorium statuses seek out, process, and evaluate information in their decision making. Foreclosures have more rigid belief systems and conform to normative standards held by significant others, while those in the diffusion status delay decision making. Significant differences have been found among the statuses in terms of their capacity for intimacy, with diffusions scoring lowest, followed by foreclosures. Achievement and moratorium statuses have a greater capacity for intimacy.
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