Mexican American adolescent identity development and possible selves theory




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Texas Tech University


The process of identity development is an essential task during adolescence. This development has a major impact on an adolescent's performance, interaction with others and his or her behavior. Successful development results in an adolescent being capable of making choices that lead to acceptable school accomplishment, the ability to form healthy relationships with family and others, and behavior that is sanctioned by society. Although most adolescents report participating in risky behavior, for the majority of adolescents this behavior does not become chronic or severe. Poor developmental outcome can result in chronic or serious delinquent behavior including drug use and violence, repeated school failure, and either unemployment or underemployment. Society has a legitimate interest in curbing adolescent delinquent behavior. Effective interventions are an essential element of society's response to adolescent delinquency. Previous research has shown that the process of adolescent identity development includes the ability to generate the possibility of both a positive and negative future self. Studies have shown that successful outcomes can be predicted based on the adolescent's balance between positive and negative selves. Levels of delinquency are related to levels of balance in possible selves.

Current research approaches are integrated to explore intra-psychic, interpersonal, and the wider social context to expand understanding of adolescent identity development and behavior. This research project includes proven measures of internal locus of control, identity style, parental bonding, general family function, levels of adolescent risk based on behavior, as well as the balance of possible selves. This dissertation expands prior research to include a population of Mexican-American adolescents. The Mexican-American population has been seriously underrepresented in previous research studies. The participants for this research include adolescents with a range of risk behavior. The subjects include those with high academic performance and no behavioral problems as well as incarcerated adolescents. An improved understanding of an adolescent's delinquent identity development and behavior contributes to the quality of intervention programs. This research makes an important contribution to the understanding of cultural differences in adolescent identity development.