Identity Status Theory


Statuses/modes of adolescent identity

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … range of possible identity statuses
  • Knowing is … an identity status
  • Learner is … an adolescent
  • Learning is … exploring identifications
  • Teaching is … N/A




Identity Status Theory is an elaboration of Psychosocial Development Theory. Identity Status Theory replaces the suggestion that adolescence involves a need to resolve an “Identity vs. Role Confusion” tension with the assertion that adolescence is more about exploration of identifications from a range of life domains (e.g., social groups, religion, vocation, gender roles). Four identity statuses are proposed: identity diffusion (no sense of having choices), identity foreclosure (willingness to commit to some roles), identity moratorium (crisis of choice among commitments), and identity achievement (a commitment to a sense of identity).


As with many 20th-century Developmental Discourses, the research subjects for Identity Status Theory were mainly white American males, presenting complex gender, racial, classist, and cultural limitations.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

James Marcia

Status as a Theory of Learning

Identity Status Theory is a theory of learning … mainly about oneself.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Identity Status Theory is not a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Identity Status Theory has a very limited empirical basis, although it has a strong intuitive appeal in western societies.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2019). “Identity Status Theory” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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