Identity development during the first two university years: Exploring intersections between micro-, ontogenetic processes

Nancy J. Bell, Elizabeth Wieling, Wendy Watson

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5 Scopus citations


Identity development processes are explored through analyses of longitudinal interview data collected with ten students during the first two university years. Micro-level analyses, based upon the work of Josephs, I. E. and Valsiner, J. [(1998). How does autodialogue work? Miracles of meaning maintenance and circumvention strategies. Social Psychology Quarterly, 61, 68-83], entailed the identification of oppositional meaning complexes-statements of conflicting meaning about self-as well as circumvention strategies. Ontogenetic analyses of developmental trajectories were based on Freeman, M. and Robinson, R.'s [(1990). The development within: An alternative approach to the study of lives. New Ideas in Psychology, 8, 53-72] conceptualization of the developmental process. From the ontogenetic analyses, two primary developmental patterns, and several subpatterns, were identified. Linkages between micro and ontogenetic levels were indicated by differences in rates of oppositional meaning complexes for individuals engaged in "developmental work" compared to those not so engaged, and differences in across-time patterning of these complexes for developmental subgroups. Findings support the potential of these methods for identifying semiotic mechanisms that are associated with longer-term developmental change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-73
Number of pages21
JournalNew Ideas in Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was partially supported by an award from the College of Human Sciences, Texas Tech University. We gratefully acknowledge the interviewing assistance of Dr. Yvonne Caldera, Texas Tech University. We are especially indebted to the student participants who willingly devoted many hours of their time to the project.


  • Identity development microprocess ontogenetic


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