Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 159–172 | Cite as

Identity Coping in the First Years of University: Identity Diffusion, Adjustment and Identity Distress

  • Luigia Simona SicaEmail author
  • Laura Aleni Sestito
  • Giancarlo Ragozini


In today’s advanced post-capitalist societies, consolidating identity with a view to acquiring adult roles is more complex than in the past. In Italy, the changes in the educational system are also associated with changes in the labor market characterized by lack of opportunity and instability. Therefore, young people on the threshold of university are discouraged from making long-term decisions and developing a coherent identity. The aim of the study was to explore what modalities Italian students adopt in order to cope with developmental tasks and how they proceed to negotiate and resolve identity-related concerns. The participants were 332 Italian students, balanced by gender, attending the first 2 years of university and aged 18–25. We used six self-report measures: Dimensions of Identity Development Scale; Identity Stage Resolution Index; Identity Distress Scale; Locus of Control Scale; Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale; and Depressive Symptom Subscale and Anxiety Symptom Subscale. Participation was voluntary, and anonymity was guaranteed. Findings indicate that identity processes, identity distress and sense of adulthood are related dimensions. We find five different modalities of identity coping (clusters) that identify different subjects. These retained clusters have also an effect on psychosocial correlates. Results advance the literature linking identity, sense of adulthood and coping with developmental tasks in emerging adulthood. Findings also support previous literature suggesting that coping with identity during first years of university is an important target of prevention efforts aimed at improving academic performance and identification of developmental path, particularly for individuals who exhibit identity diffusion and distress.


Identity diffusion Coping Distress 


Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luigia Simona Sica
    • 1
    Email author
  • Laura Aleni Sestito
    • 1
  • Giancarlo Ragozini
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of HumanitiesUniversity of Naples “Federico II”NaplesItaly
  2. 2.Department of Political SciencesUniversity of Naples “Federico II”NaplesItaly

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