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Forming identity is the most serious function of adolescence, the period between ages 12 and 25. Without a well-formed identity a person will encounter one problem after another during adult life. With a well-formed identity a person demonstrates a sense of being at home with self and experiencing a sameness in personality although operating in a variety of roles. While interacting with many different individuals, such a person receives similar reactions on a consistent basis.istent basis.

Characteristics of people with a well-formed identity include the following descriptions:

  • •He is comfortable with who he is and does not try to live the identity of another person.
  • •She recognizes and accepts her strengths, limitations, talents, and aptitudes.
  • •He chooses which qualities of others and which environments are most beneficial for self grow

  • •She knows what psychological defenses are most appropriate for her in the face of threat and anxiety.
  • •He has learned what instincts/intuitions, needs and roles are most useful to his well-being.
  • •She is counted upon as an accountable part of a larger whole.

Foundational Elements

Identity means who I truly am or who I believe I truly am. The value that I place on my perception of myself is called self-esteem. Clearly, identity formation is at the heart of self-esteem. It is crucial, also, to conscience formation, moral attitudes, spiritual development, pro-social behavior, healthy relationships, and personal accomplishment.

Foundational Elements of Identity

Parents establish the foundation for identity formation through parenting practices that support growth in personal security, autonomy, initiative, and industry. Teachers contribute to growth in identity and positive self-esteem when their interaction, classroom practices and teaching strategies provide student exercise in those same foundational elements.

    Establishing a sound foundation for psycho-social development is fundamental for the ongoing whole-person formation of a child. Security means that the child has a sense of trust, safety and confidence that his needs will receive predictable response from the significant people in his life. Autonomy means that the child demonstrates a sense of healthful independence, inner authority, and the capability of making appropriate decisions for herself. Initiative involves a sense of interior motivation and the ability to originate plans and conquer tasks. Industry implies that the child follows through, is diligent, and has a systematic approach to tasks and responsibilities. Where does this work of psycho-social development begin? How can parents provide for the whole-person formation of their child? How can the School help parents to set the foundation of psycho-social development in their child and then maintain it in age-appropriate ways? What practices does the school employ to foster the development of the children entrusted to it, particularly practices which, when misinterpreted or misunderstood by some school parents, can lead to a build up of adversarial attitudes between teachers and parents? These questions give direction to the work of Formative Support Services.

    Recognizing both the role of parents as their children's primary educators as well as the place of psychology in the rearing of children, parents are advised to use modern psychology and knowledge of child development to foster holistic development. A body of scholars from the psychological community (Adler, Coopersmith, Dinkmeyer, Dreikurs, Erikson, Havighurst, and Lickona) suggests that the child-rearing practices most needed to establish a sound foundation for psycho-social development relate to developing a child's senses of security, autonomy, initiative and industry. While each element has an initial focus time for development in the life of the child, each characteristic needs continual development in age-appropriate ways throughout the elementary school years. It is important to continue developing the focus points of previous stages. A child's sense of identity, which will carry him or her through adult life, depends upon a healthy foundation of security, autonomy, initiative and industry. How can parents and teachers recognize which foundation characteristic needs attention and what practices would best address the need? These questions are addressed and practical parent practices are suggested in the work of Formative Parenting Support Services.


Briefly, the characteristics needed for growth in personal security included practices that incorporate routine, procedure, system, safety precautions, consistency, continuity, predictability and following the maxim: "Say what you mean and mean what you say." Growth in autonomy was associated with practices that foster responsible independence, self-governance, intrinsic self-control, respectful assertiveness, accountability, praising effort more than result, and doing nothing for a child that the child can do independently. Initiative was believed to be fostered by exposure to varied experiences, seeing adults model positive recovery after making a mistake, having the materials, tools and resources available that relate to varied interests, praising process rather than product, encouraging appropriate risk taking, valuing freedom tempered with responsibility and consequences, and establishing basic standards and deadlines for chores. Parents and children suggested that growth in industry requires behaviors built upon steady care, productivity, follow through, deadlines, long range projects, time management, working side-by-side with an adult on projects of many steps, and living by the maxim: "Plan your work and work your plan."

Focusing on how to establish, develop, maintain, and remediate a child's sense of security, autonomy, initiative, and industry contributes to a soul formation that incorporates spiritual, moral, social, psychological and civic well-being.