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“According to [Erik] Erikson, during adolescence, a primary aspect of developing one’s identity deals with role confusion. Puberty disrupts the predictability and understandings an individual has developed as a child, and the search for identity is the paramount psychosocial experience for the adolescent. Often, cliques form and manifest exclusionary behavior. Everyone who passed through adolescence was affected to some extent by this search for identity… Adolescents search for who they are. Their determination is made by attempting to integrate what they believed themselves to be as children, their newly discovered libidos, and their vision of their future selves. Erikson stated that the adolescent mind is essentially a mind of the moratorium—a psychosocial stage between childhood and adulthood (i.e. the morality learned by the child and the ethics to be developed by the adult). It is an ideological mind. Indeed, it is the ideological outlook of a society that speaks most clearly to the adolescent who is eager to be affirmed by his peers and is ready to be confirmed by rituals, creeds, and programs which at the same time define what is evil, uncanny, and inimical.

Gifted adolescents develop a sense of self through various interactions with groups of people. Erikson called this trying on different hats. He believed that becoming a healthy adult is necessarily tied to resolving the crisis of identity or suffering the feelings associated with role confusion.

Resolving this crisis successfully is complicated in Western cultures given the mixed messages that society sends to gifted students. The messages can be so confusing that gifted students will engage in numerous behaviors to cope. Some approaches include hiding or pretending to be what one is not. Other coping approaches include underachievement or other behaviors with potentially serious consequences…

Erikson [believed] that successful resolution of the psychosocial crises he outlined would result in … children leading their lives with feelings of hope, will, purpose, competence, fidelity, love, care, and wisdom…”

From “Gifted Children and Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development,” by Tracy L. Cross. Gifted Child Today Winter 2001.

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