Identity vs Role Confusion

Identity vs role-confusion tends to occur during adolescence. The young adult is moving from dependent child to independent adult, causing their roles to others to change. They must discover their identity while selecting the roles they will follow in life.

During the identity vs role-confusion stage, young adults will determine their personally held beliefs, their ideals, their goals and desires.

During identity vs role-confusion or the diffusion phase in transactional analysis, the individual becomes concerned about how they appear to others. Individuals select roles to follow that then affect their relationships with others.


Young adults experiment with their identity and relationships before selecting how they will define themselves. Common explorations include career paths, social groups, political groups, extracurricular activities and personal interests. Identities in Western adolescents can fall into common categories such as athlete, nerd, trade student, musician, preppy, book worm or trouble-maker.

Adolescence is also when young adults make their first choices toward a profession. Questions asked now will set their trajectory for their next decades if not the rest of their life. Some of the questions asked at this stage include:

Where do I see myself in ten years?
What do I want to do to earn a living?
What am I good at doing?
What do I want to do in life?
What type of person do I want to be?
What social roles do I enjoy filling?
What roles match my personal beliefs and goals?

Peer Groups and Identities

Peer groups affect identity. Adolescents will change peer groups and friends based on their identity or select an identity based on the clique they join. Young adults in this phase also experiment with various relationships and social roles. At this stage, the personal preferences in potential partners are discovered. Ideals for a future marriage partner are first formed.