Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 760–774 | Cite as

How does School Experience Relate to Adolescent Identity Formation Over Time? Cross-Lagged Associations between School Engagement, School Burnout and Identity Processing Styles

  • Rasa Erentaitė
  • Rimantas Vosylis
  • Ingrida Gabrialavičiūtė
  • Saulė Raižienė
Empirical Research


The existing research findings still do not provide a clear understanding of the links between adolescent school experience and their identity formation. To address this gap, we analyzed the dynamic links between adolescent school experiences and identity formation by exploring the cross-lagged associations between school engagement, school burnout and identity processing styles (information-oriented, normative and diffuse-avoidant) over a 2-year period during middle-to-late adolescence. The sample of this school-based study included 916 adolescents (51.4% females) in the 9th to 12th grades from diverse socio-economic and family backgrounds. The results from the cross-lagged analyses with three time points revealed that (a) school engagement positively predicted information-oriented identity processing over a 2-year period; (b) school burnout positively predicted the reliance on normative and diffuse-avoidant identity styles across the three measurements; (c) the effects were stable over the three time points and across different gender, grade, and socio-economic status groups. The unidirectional effects identified in our study support the general prediction that active engagement in learning at school can serve as a resource for adolescent identity formation, while school burnout, in contrast, can hinder the formation of adolescent identity. This points to the importance of taking developmental identity-related needs of adolescents into account when planning the school curriculum.


Identity styles School engagement School burnout Adolescence 



This research was funded 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 the European Social Fund under the Global Grant measure, No. VP1-3.1-ŠMM-07-K-02-008.

Authors’ Contributions

R.E. conceived of the study, participated in its design and implementation and drafted the manuscript; R.V. participated in the design and implementation of the study, performed the statistical analysis and contributed to drafting of the manuscript; I.G. participated in the design and implementation of the study and contributed to drafting of the manuscript; S.R. participated in the design and coordination of the study and contributed to drafting of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Data Sharing Declaration

The data 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 conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Ethical approval was received from the Institute of Psychology, Mykolas Romeris University.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Adams, G. R., Berzonsky, M. D., & Keating, L. (2006). Psychosocial resources in first-year university students: the role of identity processes and social relationships. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35(1), 78–88. Scholar
  2. Appleton, J. J., Christenson, S. L., Kim, D., & Reschly, A. L. (2006). Measuring cognitive and psychological engagement: validation of the student engagement instrument. Journal of School Psychology, 44(5), 427–445. Scholar
  3. Arnett, J. J (2014). Emerging adulthood: the winding road from the late teens through the twenties (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Asendorpf, J. B., Schoot, R., van de, Denissen, J. J. A., & Hutteman, R. (2014). Reducing bias due to systematic attrition in longitudinal studies: the benefits of multiple imputation. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 38(5), 453–460. Scholar
  5. Berzonsky, M. D. (1989). Identity Style: Conceptualization and Measurement. Journal of Adolescent Research, 4(3), 268–282. Scholar
  6. Berzonsky, M. D. (1994). Individual differences in self-construction: the role of constructivist epistemological assumptions. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 7(4), 263–281. Scholar
  7. Berzonsky, M. D. (2004). Identity processing style, self-construction, and personal epistemic assumptions: a social-cognitive perspective. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 1(4), 303–315. Scholar
  8. Berzonsky, M. D. (2008). Identity formation: the role of identity processing style and cognitive processes. Personality and Individual Differences, 44(3), 645–655. Scholar
  9. Berzonsky, M. D. (2011). Social-cognitive perspective on identity construction. In S. J. Schwartz, K. Luyckx, V. L. Vignoles (Eds.), Handbook of identity theory and research (pp. 55–76). New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  10. Berzonsky, M. D., & Cieciuch, J. (2016). Mediational role of identity commitment in relationships between identity processing style and psychological well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(1), 145–162. Scholar
  11. Bosch, L. A., & Card, N. A. (2012). A meta-analytic review of Berzonsky’s Identity Style Inventory (ISI). Journal of Adolescence, 35(2), 333–343. Scholar
  12. Bosma, H. A., & Kunnen, E. S. (2008). Identity-in-context is not yet identity development-in-context. Journal of Adolescence, 31(2), 281–289. Scholar
  13. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  14. Crocetti, E., Beyers, W., & Çok, F. (2016). Shedding light on the dark side of identity: introduction to the special issue. Journal of Adolescence, 47, 104–108. Scholar
  15. Crocetti, E., Erentaitė, R., & Žukauskienė, R. (2014). Identity styles, positive youth development, and civic engagement in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43(11), 1818–1828. Scholar
  16. Crocetti, E., Klimstra, T. A., Hale, W. W., Koot, H. M., & Meeus, W. (2013). Impact of early adolescent externalizing problem behaviors on identity development in middle to late adolescence: a prospective 7-year longitudinal study. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(11), 1745–1758. Scholar
  17. Crocetti, E., Klimstra, T., Keijsers, L., Hale, W. W., & Meeus, W. (2009). Anxiety trajectories and identity development in adolescence: a five-wave longitudinal study. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38(6), 839–849. Scholar
  18. Crocetti, E., Sica, L. S., Schwartz, S. J., Serafini, T., & Meeus, W. (2013). Identity styles, dimensions, statuses, and functions: making connections among identity conceptualizations. Revue Europeene Délelőtt Psychologie Appliquee, 63(1), 1–13. Scholar
  19. Crone, E. A., & Dahl, R. E. (2012). Understanding adolescence as a period of social–affective engagement and goal flexibility. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 13(9), 636–650. Scholar
  20. Eichas, K., Meca, A., Montgomery, M. J., Kurtines, W. (2015). Identity and positive youth development: advances in developmental intervention science. In K. C. McLean, M. Syed (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of identity development. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Enders, C. K. (2010). Applied missing data analysis. New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
  22. Epstein, S. (2003). Cognitive-experiential self-theory: an integrative theory of personality. In T. Millon, M. J. Lerner, & I. B. Weiner (Eds.), Handbook of psychology: personality and social psychology (2nd ed., Vol. 5, pp. 159–184). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.Google Scholar
  23. Erikson, E. H. (1968). Iden tity, youth, and crisis. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  24. Faircloth, B. S. (2012). “Wearing a mask” vs. connecting identity with learning. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 37(3), 186–194. Scholar
  25. Flum, H., & Kaplan, A. (2006). Exploratory orientation as an educational goal. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 99–110. Scholar
  26. Flum, H., & Kaplan, A. (2012). Identity formation in educational settings: a contextualized view of theory and research in practice. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 37(3), 240–245. Scholar
  27. Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 59–109. Scholar
  28. Graham, J. W. (2003). Adding missing-data-relevant variables to FIML-based structural equation models. Structural Equation Modeling, 10(1), 80–100. Scholar
  29. Harrell-Levy, M. K., & Kerpelman, J. L. (2010). Identity process and transformative pedagogy: teachers as agents of identity formation. Identity, 10(2), 76–91. Scholar
  30. Hospel, V., Galand, B., & Janosz, M. (2016). Multidimensionality of behavioural engagement: empirical support and implications. International Journal of Educational Research, 77, 37–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Howard, W. J., Rhemtulla, M., & Little, T. D. (2015). Using principal components as auxiliary variables in missing data estimation. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 50(3), 285–299. Scholar
  32. Kiuru, N., Aunola, K., Nurmi, J.-E., Leskinen, E., & Salmela-Aro, K. (2008). Peer group influence and selection in adolescents’ school burnout: a longitudinal study. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 54(1), 23–55. Scholar
  33. Klimstra, T. A., Luyckx, K., Hale, W. A., Frijns, T., van Lier, P. A. C., & Meeus, W. (2010). Short-term fluctuations in identity: introducing a micro-level approach to identity formation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(1), 191–202. Scholar
  34. Kroger, J., & Marcia, J. E. (2011). The identity statuses: origins, meanings, and interpretations. In S. J. Schwartz, K. Luyckx, & V. L. Vignoles (Eds.), Handbook of identity theory and research (pp. 31–53). New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  35. Kroger, J., Martinussen, M., & Marcia, J. E. (2010). Identity status change during adolescence and young adulthood: a meta-analysis. Journal of Adolescence, 33(5), 683–698. Scholar
  36. Lang, K. M., Chesnut, S., & Little, T. D. (2016). Package “quark” (Version 0.6.1.) [R].Google Scholar
  37. Lannegrand-Willems, L., & Bosma, H. A. (2006). Identity development-in-context: the school as an important context for identity development. Identity, 6(1), 85–113. Scholar
  38. Larson, R. W., & Rusk, N. (2011). Intrinsic motivation and positive development. Advances in Child Development and Behavior, 41, 89–130. Scholar
  39. Lawson, M. A., & Lawson, H. A. (2013). New conceptual frameworks for student engagement research, policy, and practice. Review of Educational Research, 83(3), 432–479. Scholar
  40. Little, T. D. (2013). Longitudinal structural equation modeling. New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
  41. Little, T. D., Slegers, D. W., & Card, N. A. (2006). A Non-arbitrary Method of Identifying and Scaling Latent Variables in SEM and MACS Models. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 13(1), 59–72. Scholar
  42. Luyckx, K., Lens, W., Smits, I., & Goossens, L. (2010). Time perspective and identity formation: short-term longitudinal dynamics in college students. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 34(3), 238–247. Scholar
  43. Madjar, N., & Cohen-Malayev, M. (2013). Youth movements as educational settings promoting personal development: comparing motivation and identity formation in formal and non-formal education contexts. International Journal of Educational Research, 62(Supplement C), 162–174. Scholar
  44. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (2012). Mplus user’s guide (7th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
  45. Negru-Subtirica, O., Pop, E., & Crocetti, E. (2017). A longitudinal integration of identity styles and educational identity processes in adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 53(11), 2127–2138. Scholar
  46. Newsom, J. T. (2015). Longitudinal Structural Equation Modeling: A Comprehensive Introduction. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  47. Parker, P. D., & Salmela-Aro, K. (2011). Developmental processes in school burnout: a comparison of major developmental models. Learning and Individual Differences, 21(2), 244–248. Scholar
  48. Raižienė, S., Pilkauskaitė-Valickienė, R., & Žukauskienė, R. (2014). School burnout and subjective well-being: evidence from cross-lagged relations in a 1-year longitudinal sample. Procedia—Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116(Supplement C), 3254–3258. Scholar
  49. Phillips, T. M., & Pittman, J. F. (2007). Adolescent psychological well-being by identity style. Journal of Adolescence, 30(6), 1021–1034. Scholar
  50. Pop, E. I., Negru-Subtirica, O., Crocetti, E., Opre, A., & Meeus, W. (2016). On the interplay between academic achievement and educational identity: a longitudinal study. Journal of Adolescence, 47, 135–144. Scholar
  51. Rich, Y., & Schachter, E. P. (2012). High school identity climate and student identity development. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 37(3), 218–228. Scholar
  52. Ryzin, M. J. V., Gravely, A. A., & Roseth, C. J. (2007). Autonomy, belongingness, and engagement in school as contributors to adolescent psychological well-being. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38(1), 1–12. Scholar
  53. Salmela-Aro, K., Kiuru, N., Leskinen, E., & Nurmi, J.-E. (2009). School Burnout Inventory (SBI): reliability and validity. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 25(1), 48–57. Scholar
  54. Satorra, A., & Bentler, P. M. (2001). A scaled difference chi-square test statistic for moment structure analysis. Psychometrika, 66(4), 507–514. Scholar
  55. Schachter, E. P., & Rich, Y. (2011). Identity education: a conceptual framework for educational researchers and practitioners. Educational Psychologist, 46(4), 222–238. Scholar
  56. Sinai, M., Kaplan, A., & Flum, H. (2012). Promoting identity exploration within the school curriculum: a design-based study in a junior high literature lesson in Israel. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 37(3), 195–205. Scholar
  57. Skinner, E. A., & Pitzer, J. R. (2012). Developmental dynamics of student engagement, coping, and everyday resilience. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 21–44). New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  58. Smits, I., Soenens, B., Berzonsky, M., Luyckx, K., Goossens, L., & Kunnen, S., et al. (2009). The identity style inventory—version 4: a cross-national study in scale development and validation. In I. Smits (Ed.), Identity styles in adolescence: measurement and associations with perceived parenting, personal well-being, and interpersonal functioning (pp. 57–105). Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium.Google Scholar
  59. Tuominen-Soini, H., & Salmela-Aro, K. (2014). Schoolwork engagement and burnout among Finnish high school students and young adults: profiles, progressions, and educational outcomes. Developmental Psychology, 50(3), 649–662. Scholar
  60. Upadyaya, K., & Salmela-Aro, K. (2013). Development of school engagement in association with academic success and well-being in varying social contexts. European Psychologist, 18(2), 136–147. Scholar
  61. Žukauskienė, R., Raižienė, S., Malinauskienė, O., Gabrialavičiūtė, I., Garckija, R., Vosylis, R., Kaniušonytė, G., Truskauskaitė-Kunevičienė, I., & Kajokienė, I. (2015). Pozityvi jaunimo raida Lietuvoje [Positive youth development in Lithuania]. Vilnius: Mykolas Romeris University.Google Scholar
  62. Wang, M.-T., Chow, A., Hofkens, T. & Salmela-Aro, K. (2015). The trajectories of student emotional engagement and school burnout with academic and psychological development: Findings from Finnish adolescents. Learning and Instruction, 36, 57–65. Scholar
  63. Wang, M.-T., & Eccles, J. S. (2012). Adolescent behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement trajectories in school and their differential relations to educational success. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 22(1), 31–39. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Social Sciences, Humanities and ArtsKaunas University of TechnologyKaunasLithuania
  2. 2.Institute of PsychologyMykolas Romeris UniversityVilniusLithuania

Personalised recommendations