Erik Erikson introduced identity as a universal developmental task that provides the foundation for an individual’s general sense of well-being. Erikson’s (1968) theorizing about the self, however, was simultaneously about society—a psychosocial process. The contemporary identity literature privileges the “psycho” over the “social,” which limits our understanding of the role of identity processes in society more broadly. This article returns to Erikson’s concept of psychosocial relativity, which he used to define identity, in order to describe a transactional approach to examining identity processes, an approach wherein self and society are actively and jointly (re)constructed. The paper also provides examples of three approaches to transactional identity research from the existing literature and concludes with recommendations for how to further such scholarship. The thesis is that adopting a transactional approach extends the relevance of identity research and positions identity as a tangible lever that can shift who we are becoming in the direction of a more equitable and humane society.
- identity development
- transactional approach
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science