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Identity and civic participation

Identity and migration

Identity and school

Educational and Vocational Identity

Identity formation and character

Identity and well-being

Personal and social identity

Identity and civic participation

Interview with Prof. Lyda Lannegrand-Willems and Dr. Cyrille Perchec

What were the main questions you seek to answer with your research?

Lyda: First, we started with the idea that young people want to find their place in society. And also, they want to answer who they are. But we wondered how they defined this place. So, our main questions were: What are the different forms of youth civic participation? And how are these forms related to identity in progress?

Read more... What answers did you find to these questions?

Cyrille: We identified several forms of civic engagement. Some youth presented strong civic participation, in different formal and informal ways. For example, being a member of a party, syndicate or political organization, is a very formal way; whereas being connected to a Facebook group that is concerned with political issues is one example of informal way. But, some of the young were in contrast disengaged from political and societal concerns. And, we also identified what is called a “standby” form, which was characterized by interest in political and societal issues but without participation. It is like an “in-between” form. And, especially here, teachers, social workers and other professionals that work with young people, do have a major role in promoting youth personal development. Another finding was that some adolescents and young adults were characterized by passivity in civic engagement, problematic personal identity and rejection of social identity at the same time. For example, a young person who has a problem to define his or her place in society, and who doesn’t know who he is, who she is, and also doesn’t feel a sense of belonging to any social group or community, such a profile constitutes an at-risk situation for the individual and for society, for instance, regarding youth marginalization or radicalization.

What do you like most/find most exciting about your research?

Lyda: It was exciting to identify the several and diverse ways that young people are engaged in political and societal concerns, and also the ways that they form their personal and social identity. We really liked exploring and describing the diversity in youth civic and political engagement.

In what ways it will be useful? Think of 2 examples. What can a young person learn from it?

Lyda: First of all, young people can learn that there is not only one way of engaging in society. There are multiple ways, which develop during adolescence and are linked to his or her own identity formation.

How can a teacher/youth worker apply it in work with young people?

Cyrille: And concerning teachers and youth workers, we encourage them organizing critical discussions and debates with youth on current hot topics. And they should also promote civic participation and community action by youth through projects that emerge from young people for young people. And these examples of actions may enhance identity exploration processes, also favor inclusive social identity and reinforce civic engagement in its diversity of expressions.

Some information about implementation of this research: how many people took part, were there any unexpected moments or surprising outcomes, etc.

Lyda: This research was conducted in France, because we are French researchers. More than 1200 French students from 16 to 24 year-old took part. We were surprised by the number of respondents and their interest in these questions. So, we are willing to continue our investigations, for instance in examining deeper why some young people are engaged while others are disengaged, who they are, what can be the social facilitators and, on the other side, what can be the barriers perceived by youth.

Cyrille: Because it is very important for everyone to find his or her place in society.

What are the main 4 keywords about your research?(please think of words from every day language rather than academic research keywords)

Lyda: Youth diversity, of course.

Cyrille: Civic participation.

Lyda: Yeah, and also identity, and living together, yes!

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"How is Civic Engagement Related to Personal Identity and Social Identity in Late Adolescents and Emerging Adults? A Person- Oriented Approach"

Authors: Lyda Lannegrand-Willems, Basilie Chevrier, Cyrille Perchec, Alexia Carrizales

"Journal of Youth and Adolescence", Volume 47, Issue 4, April 2018.

Identity and migration

Interview with Dr. Rasa Erentaitė

What were the main questions you seek to answer with your research?

In this study we focused on ethnic minority youth, and how they develop their identity, how they target their identity issues, what is the most important for them. Because until now there was little integrated knowledge about specifically ethnic minority youth in Europe.

Read more... What answers did you find to these questions?

What we observed in this literature review was that there is some support for the tendency that ethnic minority youth in Europe might be undergoing a more intensive identity crisis comparing to their mainstream peers. That means that they could be questioning their cultural belonging, they could be questioning their interpersonal relationships, or their occupational choices, more intensively compared to mainstream youth. On the other hand, it is not clear from the existing studies, what the consequences of this intensified identity work are – whether this brings less favorable identity outcomes for ethnic minority groups or makes them more resilient, more strong, and in a more favorable situation compared to mainstream youth. Some studies support this idea that ethnic minority youth have some less favorable outcomes, but other studies did not confirm this. And in particular – the studies, which revealed ethnic minority youth as very actively engaged in their identity development as agents, and as very creative agents, who are able to construct hybrid identities, taking elements from different groups, from different contexts and integrating it all in their identity. So this hybrid identity, it looks that this may be something that is also specific for ethnic minority youth and makes them in some ways different from the mainstream youth.

What do you like most/find most exciting about your research?

What was the most interesting to me, that some findings about how ethnic minority youth develop their identity and what the outcomes of identity development process are, were just contrary to each other. So, for example, you could see than for some youth stronger commitments to their ethnic group, stronger ethnic identity, could be linked to favorable outcomes, such as higher well being. But for the same ethnic group in another country building their ethnic identity, making it stronger, it could bring exactly opposite outcomes, and there this could be linked to lower well being. And when we have such conflicting findings, it is very difficult to make some generalizations, so we just need to say: OK, this is context-dependent, and we need more studies.

In what ways it will be useful? Think of 2 examples. How can a teacher/youth worker apply it in work with young people?

It is important that those who work with youth across Europe, with ethnic minority youth, take into account that building identity for ethnic minority young person may require much more resources and much more effort on behalf of a young person, compared to mainstream youth. So it means that this issue shouldn’t go unnoticed and maybe some resources could be provided for youth to explore who they are: to find their comfortable identifications, to find comfortable values for them, comfortable goals and so on. So youth workers really have to take this into account. Another issue is that it is difficult to say something more from the findings because the findings are really mixed. So it means that the ones who are working with youth should really take into account what the context is for that particular ethnic minority group that they are dealing with, and what the country is like, what the country policies are, also how the group is perceived in the general public, whether it is a group discriminated against. So this all might make a crucial difference when considering what support youth need for identity development.

What can a young person learn from it?

A message for youth could be that they should really trust in themselves, their ability to find what is best for them in terms of identity. Because we see from research examples that youth are able to be very creative: they can build hybrid identities, they can pick what is most convenient, what is most important and what is most favorable for them in building their identity. So really, be free to explore, be free to explore not only what is just close by, nearby, but also more general identities, like global, multicultural identity, like European identity. And these all really make resources for youth in their identity development.

Some information about implementation of this research: how many people took part, were there any unexpected moments or surprising outcomes, etc.

In this study we didn’t collect new data, we just looked for existing studies and their findings and tried to come up with some insights and some generalizations based on those previous studies. And we worked in a team of 6 researchers from 3 different countries. And it was of course quite a challenge, but also a big advantage. Advantage because six minds are really good for brainstorming, for insights, and for coming up with major interesting ideas. But on the other hand, when you need to integrate ideas, when you need to integrate those findings, it becomes really hard to work across different countries and in a team of 6 researchers. So for me it was really new and the first experience of such work, and the last integrative part was really really challenging.

If your research was a medical instrument – what would it be?

I would say that this study resembles not a particular instrument but maybe a procedure of medical examination: when you take different samples with different tools, and you try to make a general diagnosis or general evaluation of what the situation of this body is. In this case – body of research of ethnic minority youth identity.

What are the main 4 keywords about your research?

Ethnic minority, Europe, youth and identity.

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"Identity Among Ethnic Minority Youth In Europe"

Authors: Rasa Erentaite, Lyda Lannegrand-Willems,Oana Negru-Subritica, Rimantas Vosylis, Jolanta Sondaitė, Saulė Raižienė

"European Psychologist"

Identity and school

Interview with Dr. Ingrida Gabrialavičiūtė and Dr. Rimantas Vosylis

What were the main questions you seek to answer with your research?

Rimantas: The main question of our study was to investigate how school experiences, specifically how one feels in the school and how one feels towards the school, is related to how one constructs their sense of self, which we refer to as identity.

Ingrida: And we also wanted to see whether this influence is reciprocal. What we mean, that we tried to find out how experiences at school might identity constructing process and also it is possible that how young people construct their identities might affect how they actually see school and how they actually feel at school.

Read more... What answers did you find to these questions?

Rimantas: The main finding of our study was that it is actually the school experiences that affect how young people construct their identities and not otherwise.

Ingrida: Two types of experience at school: school engagement – actual participation in school related activities, and school burnout – meaning emotional withdrawal from school, sense of exhaustion, were actually related to identity constructing processes differently.

Rimantas: So these two school experiences were related quite differently related to these three identity styles. The school engagement, which is the active engagement in school activities, mostly promoted this most adaptive way of dealing with identity questions: the informational identity style. And the school burnout mostly promoted these two other strategies, of which one is avoiding identity question in general, and the normative style which reflects the adherence to opinions of important others about your sense of self.

What do you like most/find most exciting about your research?

Rimantas: I think one of the always most interesting and exciting parts of the research is when you develop hypothesis before the study and when you do the empirical study, you find some support for your hypothesis. This is the part which is always quite exciting for us.

Ingrida: Actually try to relate aspects of school experiences that were not related before. We tied to relate how engagement in school and exhaustion in school related to identity constructing processes, and we found confirmation to that. So that was really the most exciting for us as researchers.

In what ways it will be useful? Think of 2 examples. What can a young person learn from it?

Ingrida: Our study can be useful for young people because it reminds that it might actually be beneficial to do what school asks to do: to participate in the classroom, to pay attention to teachers, to do the assignments. Because it not only helps to get better grades but it also helps to develop as a person as well.

How can a teacher/youth worker apply it in work with young people?

Ingrida: Our study can also be useful for professionals working at school, for the teachers, because it raises their awareness to signs of participation of young people and signs of exhaustion at school.

Some information about implementation of this research: how many people took part, were there any unexpected moments or surprising outcomes, etc.

Ingrida: It was quite a long study. The whole study lasted three years, we questioned students from sevens schools from one district of Lithuania. We met students three times – once in a year. We gave them the same questions. So, all process took a lot of effort, a lot of time. We needed to have a very good contact with students. We tried to motivate them to help us to answer the same questions, which sometimes seemed boring to them – but we are happy we did it!

If your research was a medical instrument – what would it be?

Rimantas: I think as a medical instrument it would be mostly close to a scalpel of a surgeon, because it is so precise, as I see it. So our study was quantitative one, longitudinal one, which also means that we gathered a rather representative sample of adolescents in Lithuania, and we used quite highly validated instruments to measure these experiences, and informational identity styles, and finally we conducted a quite complicated statistical analysis, which gives really precise estimates of these relationships, so this is why for me it mostly resembles the scalpel of a surgeon.

What are the main 4 keywords about your research?(please think of words from every day language rather than academic research keywords)

Rimantas: The main keyword for this study, as I see it, would be: who I am and how I develop the sense of who I am…

Ingrida : ...and what I do at school, and how I feel at school.

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"How does School Experience Relate to Adolescent Identity Formation Over Time? Cross-Lagged Associations between School Engagement, School Burnout and Identity Processing Styles"

Authors: Rasa Erentaitė, Rimantas Vosylis, Ingrida Gabrialavičiūtė, Saulė Raižienė

"Journal of Youth and Adolescence", Volume 47, Issue 4, April 2018.

Educational and Vocational Identity

Interview with Dr. Oana Negru-Subtirica

What were the main questions you seek to answer with your research?

You know how they say that if you like school, you are going to love work. Well, we say that, but we know very little about this saying during adolescence, when work is a very very distant dimension of an adolescent’s life. So, in this research we wanted to see how education and work are linked through identity.
Adolescents have many preoccupations, however, the work they will do in a very distant future is often not one of them. Nevertheless, a lot of the choices they make during schooling influence their decisions about their future work.

Read more... What answers did you find to these questions?

Across the school year strong educational commitments - so students who were very engaged in their education - helped and enforced strong vocational commitments or choices regarding future work fields. That means, for instance, that a student who was very involved in his education became across time also very involved in his choice of a future job. This is incredibly important, because that means that students who made sense of their education also made more sense of their future work or their vocation. Another important finding was that vocational flexibility, meaning that you keep your options open - you like one job, for instance, want to become a carpenter, but you also keep in mind that you could become a computer programmer or medical doctor – this vocational flexibility helps strengthen educational commitments. So, helps you become more content, more involved in your education. Meaning that, this type of flexibility which actually prepares you for this very volatile work field, is of great help to strengthen involvement in education.

What was most exciting about these findings for you?

In the contemporary world they always say that giving up on your goals is not good, makes you indecisive, not look good. Sometimes they even say you are a looser if you give up on your goals. But what we found out was the fact that actually giving up on your goals is a good thing. This vocational flexibility that we talked about, the fact that you are not focused on only one direction, but you keep a lot of options open, is actually a good dimension of giving up on your goals. Because it means that you keep in mind more than one goal and that makes you more adaptive for your education and also for your future work. So, keeping up active more options and being ready to reconsider some is a good dimension of relinquishing your goals.

What can a young person and a professional learn from it

A young person, I think, you or I, we always wonder – why do I stay in school? Why do I learn what I learn in school? Through this study you will understand that being involved in school and sticking to your education actually helps you to find out more about what you want to do with your future work. That school has distant purpose, a greater purpose, which in the end can bring you much more happiness.
From the perspective of the professional, either teacher or counselor, you can see that you can help students through two levels, in order to make them more committed to their education or to their vocation. That education and vocation are closely linked, and by looking at and analyzing the manner in which adolescents commit to, explore or reconsider educational or vocational goals, you can use one or the other to help them through counseling or during classes.

How did you implement the research?

In this study participated over 1000 adolescents, 2 researchers and 10 research assistants. As adolescents filled in the questionnaires 3 times during an academic year, it was very interesting that we noticed the fact that they started to reflect more on their education and on their careers. And as we offered at the end of the program also the possibility that they participate in self-development workshops, they actually really liked to think more about what their education and their career is besides their classes.

What are the main 4 keywords about your research?

Education, career, teenage years.

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"Reciprocal Associations between Educational Identity and Vocational Identity in Adolescence: A Three-wave Longitudinal Investigation"

Authors: Oana Negru-Subtirica, Eleonora Ioana Pop

"Journal of Youth and Adolescence", Volume 47, Issue 4, April 2018.

Identity formation and character

Interview with Ewa Topolewska-Siedzik

What were the main questions you seek to answer with your research?

How do young people in age of 13 and 16 look for answers who they are in our world? Do they differ, or do the same thing? And how is the role of their character in that process? One can say personality plays important role in the way how people behave. We conducted longitudinal research what means that we studied the same people five time in the period of 1,5 years. We wanted to find how personality traits influence the way of identity formation in two groups: younger and older adolescents.

Read more... What answers did you find to these questions?

Young people explore who they are more and more with the age. Additionally, we can say that older ones look more, and in a more active way. Additionally, the way that they question themselves is really connected with their character. What does it mean? We can say that there are two strengths in our personality. The first one is associated with growth, with the way that we, for example, want to find something more than we really are right now. And the second strength associated with the way that we would like to maintain exactly the same thing in all our behaviors. And these two strengths influence the way how young people look for the answer who I am, or who she/he wants to be in the future. But what’s important, the plasticity, the first strength in personality that is associated with the growth, influence also the course of exploration and the course of identity formation, but only among younger adolescents. So, about 13-14-15 years old. And later, among older ones it doesn’t work at all.

What do you like most/find most exciting about your research?

The most important and the most exciting thing is that younger and older adolescents really differ in the way that they are engaged in all identity stuff. And what’s more important, the personality plays completely different role during the beginning of adolescence and in the middle of that period. We can not look at youth as uniform period. Younger and older teenagers behave differently.

Some information about implementation of this research: how many people took part, were there any unexpected moments or surprising outcomes, etc.

In our research participated almost 2000 teenagers from Poland. We visited them 5 times at schools. That means, it is sometimes hard to answer the same questions 5 times. Thus in advance we prepared special gifts, workshops and also a publication that is dedicated only to teenagers that participated in our project, and there are polish words “moja droga” – my way: who I am and what are my strengths.

If your research was a medical instrument – what would it be?

I think X-ray or even magnetic resonance imaging. Why? Because we try to catch those things that are hard to see in every day life, the connection between identity and personality of young people.

What are the main 4 keywords about your research?

Differences between older and younger teenagers.

In what ways it will be useful? What can a young person learn from it?

It is normal that sometimes you do not know what you want and who you really are. You have still a lot of time to find out you preferences. We all differ in need to be open to others and environment, as well as the need to protect our goals, interpretations, and strategies. That means, our personality – what we are influenced by the intensity of identity formation process, so you don’t have to do exactly the same things others do, you can follow yours preferences, as long as you do not hurt other people. It is normal that young people in the age of 13 to 15 and older ones, around 16 to 18, differ in their engagement into the searching for answers and during adolescence this need increases.

How can a teacher or youth worker apply it in work with young people?

As adults we should remember that people are different and in consequence it is impossible to find one appropriate way of young people’s identity formation. So the appropriate way is that young people should follow to be responsible and aware of their own preferences. It is especially important when we realize that character, so personality, influences all our behaviors, also those associated with identity formation.

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"Trajectories of Identity Formation Modes and Their Personality Context in Adolescence"

Authors: Ewa Topolewska-Siedzik, Jan Cieciuch

"Journal of Youth and Adolescence", Volume 47, Issue 4, April 2018.

Identity and well-being

Interview with Dominika Karaś

What questions did you address in your research?

Our research aimed at answering the question how identity formation in various life domains contributes to experiencing well-being and which life domains are crucial for promoting well-being of young people. By identity we understand answering the question „Who am I?“ in the life domains important for young adults. Seeking for the answer to this question is connected with exploring various life alternatives, various possibilities and commiting into some of them
The domains that we included in our research were: personality characteristics, worldview, hobbies and interests, life experiences, plans for future, and the relationships with other people.

Read more... What answers did you find to these questions?

We found that among three identity processes, the two of them are strongly contributing to well-being in the most of the life domains that we examined. And these processes were identity commitment (which means the decisions made in an identity relevant domain) and in-depth exploration (which we understand as gathering the information about existing commitments). The third identity process, reconsideration of commitment (defined as having some doubts about current identity choices) was decrising individual's well-being. However, these relationships were not present in all of the examined domains.

What were the most exciting findings for you?

The most excinting and surprising finding was the fact that life domains were actually differ in terms of the relationships between identity and well-being.
And the most important for young people‘s well-being was personality domain, and that means that having strong and relatively stable answers for the question „what are my key personality characteristics? What are my personality elements that are most important for answering the question Who am I?“ is linked with feeling good in life.

What can a young person and a professional learn from it?

Well, I think that both: young people, as well as the theachers or other kinds of professionals working with youth can learn from our research that identity explorations are extremely important for feeling good in life.
So, knowing who am I in various life domains provides me the sense of well-being, feeling good and feeling happy, so promoting and strenghtening identity development in school is extremely important for youth development.

How did you implement the research?

We examined more than 1300 of young people. Some of them completed the questionnaires online, and some of them completed the questionnaires using standard paper questionnaires.
We contacted them in various contexts, such as universities, workplaces, discussion groups, websites and so on... And moreover, we used reliable psychological tools for assessing identity processes and well-being.

If this research was a medical instrument – what would it be?

I think that it could be a CT, because we tried to get the full, complete picture of examined relationships and we tried to capture a whole variety of life domains important for young people and their identity.

Could you describe your research in 4 words?

I think that four most important words for our research are: of course identity, well-being, and, I think, identity commitment, and identity exploration.

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"The relationship between identity processes and well-being in various life domains"

Authors: Dominika Karaś, Jan Cieciuch

"Journal of Youth and Adolescence", Volume 47, Issue 4, April 2018.

Personal and social identity

Interview with Dr. Flavia Albarello

What questions did you address in your research?

This research was about young people‘s choices in educational and relational domain, and their identification with the group of classmates and the group of best friends.

Read more... What answers did you find to these questions?

We found several interesting findings, but the most important was the extent to which a young person was happy with his / her relationships with classmates affected the effort that he/she put into his/her educational choice, and the extent to which he /she was happy with their friends affected the effort he/she put into the relation with best friends.

What were the most exciting findings for you?

The most exciting finding was that identification with classmates and with friends affected personal individual choices in the educational domain and in the personal domain, which means that if i know that a young person is happy with his/her class and is commited to classmates and group of friends, the more this person is satisfied and involved in the study major and in more important relationship with the best friends, for instance.

What can a young person and a professional learn from it?

This research tells teachers that the more they are able to build a nice climate and make young people to indentify with other classmates as a whole group, the more the students can be successful in their academic career and engaged in what they are studying. And also young people can understand that the extent to which they are able to create possitive relations with others, with friends, will be effective in making them able to deal with strong relationships with best friends or partners in the future. So i think good relations with others and identifying with friend smay be very useful for them in the future.

How did you implement the research?

We conducted this research during all academic year, participants had to answer to the same questionaire 3 times, separated by 3 months from one wave to the other one. First we got consent from participants and from their parents of course, and the most interesting is that they were really happy to participate in this research about self and their personal identity, they were eager to understand something about themselves, they were very open to us and to personal questions, and the results were really interesting in that term.

If this research was a medical instrument – what would it be?

I think our research can be defined as vitamin drop for young people to boost their relationships with others at school, with friends, and to make them feel better in this context.

Could you describe your research in 4 words?

the main keywords of this work are: youth; personal identity – which is the way in which i define myself what i decide want to be, for instance a teacher, a student, a mother, a surgeon; social identity – which refers to the importance of the group to which i belong to in my life, my relation with others; and longitudinal studies, which refers to the method we used in order to study the development of personal and social identity.

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"I and Us: A Longitudinal Study on the Interplay of Personal and Social Identity in Adolescence"

Authors: Flavia Albarello, Elisabetta Crocetti, Monica Rubini

"Journal of Youth and Adolescence", Volume 47, Issue 4, April 2018.

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These materials were produced within the framework of the INSIDE Project. The project has been funded with support from the European Commision. Publications and products reflect only the views of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.