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James E. Marcia is a Canadian developmental psychologist, and Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.

He is best known for his work in the social psychology of development, where he expanded on the Psychosocial Theory work of Erik Erikson.

Marcia studied Erikson's work, particularly on adolescent psychosocial development. Erikson had suggested that the normative conflict occurring in adolescence is the opposion between identity and confusion (identity crisis). Marcia elaborated on Erikson’s proposal[1] by suggesting this stage consists neither of identity resolution nor identity confusion as Erikson claimed, but the extent to which one both has explored and committed to an identity in a variety of life domains including politics, occupation, religion, intimate relationships, friendships, and gender roles. His Theory of identity achievement states that there are two distinct parts that form adolescent identity: a crisis and a commitment. He defined a crisis as a time of upheaval where old values or choices are being reexamined. The outcome of a crisis leads to a commitment to a certain value or role.

Marcia developed the Identity Status Interview, a method of semi-structured interview for identity research, and subsequently proposed four stages, or Identity Statuses, of psychological identity development:

  • Identity Diffusion, the stage in which the young person is not currently going through a crisis and has not made a commitment
  • Identity Foreclosure, the stage in which the young person has made a commitment without having gone through a crisis
  • Identity Moratorium, the stage in which the young person is currently in a crisis but has not made a commitment
  • Identity Achievement, the stage in which the person has gone through a crisis and has made a commitment to a certain value or role


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