Adolescents at-risk for problem behaviors can have more difficulties in developing a firm sense of personal identity. Hence the purpose of this prospective longitudinal study was to scrutinize how externalizing problems in early adolescence impact identity development in middle to late adolescence. Participants were 443 (43.12 % female) Dutch adolescents. Teachers rated their externalizing problem behaviors when participants were 11 or 12 years old and their identity formation was studied during five consecutive years (from 14 to 18 years of age). The sample was divided into four groups: boys and girls with a high versus a low-risk for externalizing problem behaviors. Participants completed a self-report measure of identity commitment, in-depth exploration, and reconsideration of commitment. Multi-group Latent Growth Curve and profile stability analyses were used to evaluate identity development across adolescence. Findings indicated that high-risk boys and girls reported a less structured identity, with lower levels of commitment and higher levels of reconsideration of commitment. Since externalizing problems behaviors and lack of a coherent sense of identity might reinforce each other, early intervention for high-risk adolescents might foster positive youth development.
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Elisabetta Crocetti is a Marie Curie fellow at the Utrecht University. In this article, data from the RADAR study were used. RADAR has been financially supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (GB-MAGW 480-03-005), the Achmea Foundation for Victims and Society (Stichting Achmea Slachtoffer en Samenleving: SASS), and various other grants from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), the VU University Amsterdam and Utrecht University.
EC and WM conceived the current study; EC performed the statistical analyses and wrote the manuscript; TK participated in the data analysis and interpretation of the results; WWH participated in the interpretation of the results and in the drafting of the article; HK and WM are the principal investigators of the RADAR project and are responsible for the data collection. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
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Crocetti, E., Klimstra, T.A., Hale, W.W. et al. Impact of Early Adolescent Externalizing Problem Behaviors on Identity Development in Middle to Late Adolescence: A Prospective 7-Year Longitudinal Study. J Youth Adolescence 42, 1745–1758 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-013-9924-6