Assisting with Development
- Individuals are never too old for role models and mentors. Parents and other significant people in students’ lives can continue to help students develop competencies in these areas well into adulthood by engaging them in conversations, providing an appropriate level of challenge and support, and role modeling specific skills and behaviors.
Identity Development Among College Students
The college years are a time of tremendous growth for traditionally-aged college students. Psychosocial theorists
examine the personal and interpersonal lives of individuals, focusing on the
notion that personal development
begins at a very young age and continues for the
duration of the life span. One famous psychosocial
theorist is Arthur Chickering. Many educators highly
regard his theory on identity development, which he
originally presented in the 1960s, and later revised in
collaboration with Linda Reisser in the 1990s.
Chickering’s original theory on traditionally-aged
college students has stood the test of time and is still
very relevant today. The revisions actually broaden
the scope of his original work to include all students,
regardless of age.
Chickering proposes seven vectors of identity
development. While students move through each vector, they are not rigidly sequential. Instead, while the
vectors build upon one another, students can explore
and revisit vectors at any time.
The Basics of Chickering’s Seven
- Vector 1: Developing Competence
This vector includes developing intellectual, physical and manual, and interpersonal competence.
Individuals acquire skills that give them the ability to
handle positive and negative situations that arise in
life and develop a sense of confidence that comes
from surviving those situations. Intellectually, individuals expand their interests and improve their skills in
critical thinking and reflective judgment, objectively
analyzing and drawing conclusions from data, generating questions and answers, and communicating proposals and opinions.
- Vector 2: Managing Emotions
This vector includes developing the ability to recognized
and accept emotions, as well as to appropriately express and control them. Age does not necessarily
correlate with emotional maturity, as emotional bag
gage plays a role in development.
- Vector 3: Moving Through Autonomy toward
This vector includes developing increased emotional interdependence, which means achieving emotional and instrumental autonomy, while still relying
on others for support. Individuals learn to rely less
strongly on the reassurance, affection, or approval
from others, and
others’ views into
their own developing self-concept.
- Vector 4:
includes the development of intercultural and interpersonal tolerance and
appreciation of differences, as well as the capacity for
healthy and lasting intimate relationships with partners and close friends. To sustain mature interpersonal relationships, individuals must be capable of trust,
open and honest communication, and unconditional
- Vector 5: Establishing Identity
This vector includes the development of comfort
with body, appearance, gender and sexual orientation.
Additionally, individuals establish a sense of social
and cultural heritage, a clear self-concept, a secure
sense of self in light of feedback from significant others, self-acceptance and self-esteem, and personal stability and integration. When individuals achieve a stable and realistic self-image, challenges in ideas, concepts, and values and beliefs become less threatening.
- Vector 6: Developing Purpose
This vector includes the development of clear
educational and vocational goals, making lifestyle
choices, and establishing strong interpersonal commitments. Individuals begin exploring questions such as, “What is really important in life?” and “What gives
- Vector 7: Developing Integrity
This vector includes humanizing and personalizing values. Individuals progress from a rigid, moralistic way of thinking to the development of a more
humanized value system in which the interests of others are balanced with one’s own interests. A personalized value system is then established, in which core
values are consciously affirmed and the benefits of
others are acknowledged and respected. Most important is the development of congruence between values
and behavior, which truly signifies integrity.