Towards a two-factor model of identity transitions

DeSilva, S. (Flinders University), Woodyatt, L. (Flinders University), Wenzel, M. (Flinders University)

Previous literature suggests that transitions (e.g. retirement, commencing university, having children) involve a core identity being lost or becoming inaccessible. In these studies we test whether the loss of past identity and the gain of a sense of future identity was associated with increased wellbeing through transition to university. For the present studies we operationalised the largely qualitative work on identity transitions and developed a scale to assess loss versus gain of future and past identities. We examined the associations of these factors with social isolation, mental well-being and self-efficacy through transition in university. Study 1 (N=202, USA sample) found that in contrast to some previous theory of transition, a stronger sense of both past and future identity predicted mental well-being, mediated by social isolation and self-efficacy. Study 2 (N=135, AUS sample) replicated the results of Study 1. In addition, in Study 2 there was an interaction between past and future identity factors, suggesting that a strong past identity can protect the individual from well-being declines if they have a low sense of future identity. The two studies provide initial support for a two-factor model of identity gain versus loss that will be useful for transition research.

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Social Identity and Applied Psychology