Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 689–702 | Cite as

I and Us: A Longitudinal Study on the Interplay of Personal and Social Identity in Adolescence

  • Flavia Albarello
  • Elisabetta Crocetti
  • Monica Rubini
Empirical Research


The development of personal and social identity is crucial in adolescence. On the one hand, adolescents face the task of forming and consolidating their personal identity in multiple domains, with educational and interpersonal domains particularly salient. On the other hand, they enlarge their social horizon and increasingly define themselves as members of multiple peer groups, such as groups of classmates and friends met outside school. There is however a lack of integrative research on the interplay among and between personal and social identity processes. Hence the purpose of this study was threefold. First, we examined how personal identity processes in the educational and interpersonal domains are associated longitudinally. Second, we investigated to what extent social identifications with classmates and with the group of friends are associated over time. Third, with an original approach we examined the longitudinal interplay between personal and social identity processes, to connect theoretical contributions that have so far proceeded largely in parallel. Participants were 304 adolescents (61.84% female, M age = 17.49) involved in a three-wave longitudinal study. We found that (a) the ways in which adolescents develop their identity in the educational and interpersonal domains become more closely intertwined over time; (b) identifications with classmates and with the group of friends are interconnected; and (c) personal and social identity processes are associated both concurrently and longitudinally, with most cross-lagged effects showing that social identifications influence personal identity formation and consolidation in the interpersonal identity domain. Theoretical implications are discussed.


Personal Identity Social Identity Education Peers Adolescence Longitudinal 



This research was undertaken with the partial financial support by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, strategic partnership project “Innovative Curriculum for Strong Identities in Diverse Europe (INSIDE)” (No. 2016-1-LT01-KA203-023220) and by a research grant from the Department of Psychology of the Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna (Rep. 96 Prot.n.1681).

Authors’ Contributions

FA and EC contributed equally to the article. FA and EC conceived of the current study, participated in its design and coordination, performed the statistical analyses, and wrote the manuscript; MR participated in the design of the study and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Data Sharing Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Ethics Committee of the Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna (Italy) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants (and from their parents, if minors) included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Flavia Albarello
    • 1
  • Elisabetta Crocetti
    • 1
  • Monica Rubini
    • 1
  1. 1.Alma Mater Studiorum University of BolognaBolognaItaly

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