turn to risky behaviors to help themselves cope with the failure to succeed in one of these areas.

Brown looked first at the relationship between risk-taking and the development of identity, which has been viewed by some psychologists as primarily an individual psychological process and by others as more of a social process. In the first view, originally associated with the work of Erik Erikson, the task is understood as a process of distancing oneself from the views of others, particularly parents, to form a clear sense of who one is as a person and how one wishes to behave in the world. When that process is successful, individuals are likely to avoid major risk-taking, but for individuals who have a more diffuse state of identity, there may be an association with drug use and other risks. Those who take the second perspective think that individuals draw their sense of self from the social world and that they have a primary interest in the way they are perceived and in how others respond to them. The result may also be a coordinated, secure sense of self, but for individuals who go through this process in a social context in which risk-taking is the norm, they are likely to be more prone to taking risks.1

Researchers have identified other components that also play a part in identity formation, such as identification by gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. A part of the task for adolescents is to discern the criteria for these possible identities, evaluate them, and decide whether and how to incorporate them into their personal sense of self. This process is a particular challenge for immigrant youth, who often must decipher both the culture of their family and ethnic or national group and the culture into which they have immigrated. Research on immigrant youth has suggested that, in this circumstance, many young people choose either to stick closely with their home culture, conforming to traditional customs and styles of dress and gaining the reputation of a good boy or girl, or to reject that option in favor of a more Americanized identity. The Americanized orientation often means association with risk-taking peers.

The development of autonomy is closely linked to identity formation and is also generally conceptualized primarily as either a psychological or an interpersonal process. Some researchers, Brown explained, have suggested that there is a universal process through which individuals develop healthy autonomy (Kagitcibasi, 2005). If individuals develop a high sense of agency (taking responsibility for their own actions) while retaining close connections with significant adults, they are likely to develop a healthy “autonomous, relational self,” which is likely to result in rela-

1

Brown cited the work of Jay McLeod on inner-city youth as an example of the social process of identity formation (McLeod, 1987).



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