Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 63–70 | Cite as

Brief report: Relativism and identity crisis in young adulthood

  • Patricia E. Kahlbaugh
  • Deirdre A. Kramer


This study investigated the relationship between epistemological world views and identity formation. Forty college students, aged 17 to 23 years, were presented with a paradigm belief scale (Social Paradigm Belief Inventory; SPBI), an identity status questionnaire, and an indepth interview about a conflict they had recently experienced. It was hypothesized that a relativistic world view would be related to a moratorium identity status because relativistic thought processes involve a questioning of the objectivity of knowledge and authority structures and hence an awareness of the variety of alternative and potentially conflicting roles and choices. Results indicated that relativism was the most common world view used when responding to questions about a personal conflict and that relativistic scores on the SPBI were predictive of the moratorium status. Relativistic scores on the SPBI were also negatively related to identity achievement, as were mechanistic scores. Females experienced moratorium to a greater extent than males but were not more relativistic. Results are discussed in terms of linkages among cognitive development, psychosocial development, gender, and the type of measures used to assess world view status.

Key words

World views identity development moratorium relativism young adult development 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia E. Kahlbaugh
    • 1
  • Deirdre A. Kramer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRutgers University/Livingston CampusNew Brunswick

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