How Teens Find Their Identity

“According to the symbolic interactionist perspective, the self is a process” (Rohall, Milkie, & Lucas, 2014).

This means that we continually take in the information around us such as to the perceived opinion of others about who they think we are. Do they seem to think we are cool, uncool, funny, not so much? Their subtle reactions to us are unconsciously taken in and weighed against previous experience to help form our sense of self or our identity. This is true for us all even our children and teens.

Thinking more about teens, it really gives new insight into teen behavior and sense of self. This really helps us to understand their difficulty in finding an identity. Not only do teens try out different personas, but they are trying to determine whether they are a good or bad person.

Teens are meeting new people as they head into middle school and then high school. Whichever group seems to accept them, will likely be the identity they choose for this time in their life. Imagine a teen girl who wants to be part of the prep crowd. She will attempt to look and act like the prep crowd. If accepted she will continue to see herself as a prep. But if she is unaccepted, she will likely look for a new group to identify with.

Even though other teens play a large role in who they choose to be, we as parents and family members still play a pivotal role in how they perceive themselves. They are still looking to us for affirmation that they are good people. Our role is to always see our children in the best light. We need to be careful to separate their behavior from who they are. They are going to make some bad choices but this does not make them bad people. Look for the good and reflect it back to them. Let’s always reflect love and acceptance so they can love and accept themselves.


Rohall, D. E., Milkie, M. A., & Lucas, J. W. (2014). Social psychology: Sociological perspectives. Boston: Pearson Education.

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