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Doctor of Philosophy




James E. Côté


One of the key developmental challenges young people face in adolescence and early adulthood is the formation of an adult identity. Based on the work of Erik Erikson (1963, 1964, 1968), this task is conceptualized as a psychosocial process that reflects an ongoing dialectic between individuals and their social environment. This dissertation focused on the influence of parenting style, and the perception of mattering to others, on the processing of identity-relevant information, characterized by an identity style orientation (Berzonsky, 1989, 1992). The multidimensional model of identity (Côté & Levine, 2002) was used as a framework to unite the bodies of literature on these topics, and to form hypotheses that were tested through the analysis of two longitudinal datasets.

The first study used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY; Statistics Canada, 1997) to examine the relationship between nurturing and rejecting parenting styles and the development of an identity style orientation. A series of hierarchical models were used to regress young adolescents' reports of parental behaviour on the three identity styles and later psychosocial outcomes, controlling for reports of parenting style provided by their primary guardians. Results showed that a nurturing parenting style was related to the normative and informational identity styles. The diffuse identity style was associated with parental rejection for boys, and a low level of parental nurturing for girls. The youth reports of parenting style were significantly better predictors than the corresponding assessments from their parental guardians.

A second study was conducted to examine the association between the identity style orientations and the perception of mattering to parents and friends. Analysis was based on repeated measures gathered from a university population during their first three years of school (Adams, 2003). Random-intercept models were used to separate variation within- and between-subjects over time. Findings were limited, though there was some evidence that mattering to mother was associated with the normative and informational identity styles, and mattering to friends was related to the diffuse-avoidant orientation.

Results from both studies provided support for the theoretical model, positioning it as a useful tool for future research on identity development.

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