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The Role of Parenting and Attachment in
Identity Style Development

By: Kaylin Ratner | Mentor: Dr. Steven Berman

Links Among Styles

Parenting as Related to Identity Style

The link between parenting and identity style was first investigated by Berzonsky (2004). In a sample of university students, he found that the informational identity style was positively predicted by the authoritative parenting style. The normative identity style, although most strongly and positively predicted by the authoritative parenting style, was also positively predicted by the authoritarian parenting style. Finally, the diffuse-avoidant style was positively predicted by both the authoritarian and indulgent parenting styles, but negatively predicted by the authoritative parenting style. That is, parents who are democratic in their parenting style (i.e., deliver punishments within a warm, accepting, and empathic context that recognizes the adolescent as an autonomous individual) elicit the most psychologically adaptive identity styles. Alternatively, parenting styles that emphasize warmth without control, and control without warmth, tend to elicit a diffuse-avoidant identity style, which has been linked to various psychological maladjustments in prior literature (e.g., Dollinger, 1995, Vleioras & Bosma, 2005, Thoits, 1999).

Parenting as Related to Attachment

In line with Erikson's psychosocial theory, nonfamily relationships (e.g., romantic partners and peers) become more influential than parents on an individual's development as they age (e.g., Ávila, Cabral, & Matos, 2012; Pittman, Keiley, Kerpelman, & Vaughn, 2011), particularly in the realms of relational commitment and exploration (Meeus et al., 2002). It is because of this progression that little research exists on how parenting influences later attachment styles. From the literature that does exist, a clear pattern emerges. Autonomy-supportive parenting (evidenced by high levels of authoritative parenting) tends to be positively related to self-reported current and retrospective parental attachment in adolescents and young adults (Quintana & Lapsley, 1987; Kobak & Sceery, 1988; Kerns, Tomich, Aspelmeier, & Contreras, 2000).

Identity Status and, by extension, Identity Style as Related to Attachment

In a study by Campbell, Adams, and Dobson (1984), researchers looked at identity status and emotional attachment among undergraduate students. Their results suggest that those with the highest degree of attachment to their parental figures fall into the identity achieved, moratorium, or foreclosure status. Inferring from the findings of Berzonsky and Neimeyer (1994), the individuals within these statuses should adhere to either an informational or normative identity style. Campbell, Adams, and Dobson also found that the final status, diffusion (and by extension, the diffuse-avoidant identity style), was most typical among individuals who claimed to have the least amount of emotional attachment to their parents. Taken as a whole, it seems that those with greater attachment also display a willingness to actively construct their identity (i.e., adopt an informational identity style), or adopt values from those around them (i.e., adopt a normative identity style, whereas those with low attachment to their parents tend to procrastinate in their identity formation (i.e., adopt a diffuse-avoidant identity style), which may lead to higher levels of identity distress and heightened levels of anxiety over meaning of life (Berman et al., 2004; Berman et al., 2006).

Purpose and Rationale >>