Identity Development and Transitions Experienced by University Students

by Ashley Wiebe

The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships between identity development of university students, binge drinking, and adjustment to university. There were 209 first year psychology students that completed the Objective Measure of Ego-Identity Status, the Revised Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure, the Identity Distress Survey, the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire, and a 4-item Binge Drinking Measure. The sample consisted of 165 females and 44 males. Correlational analysis was conducted in order to determine associations between the variables. Findings indicated that the binge drinking was normative among university students. As expected, males reported greater alcohol consumption than females and binge drinking was associated with poorer academic adjustment. In terms of identity status the majority of the students (70.8%) were classified as identity diffused. Participants with higher identity diffused scores had poor academic adjustment, while participants with higher identity achieved scores showed greater academic adjustment. Students who were exploring and/or committed to their ethnic identity were more likely to identity achieved. Therefore, it is not surprising that individuals who were exploring and/or committed to their ethnic identity were better adjusted academically, similar to the identity achieved individuals. Students’ identity distress was associated with poor academic and social adjustment to university. A major finding was that students who had resolved, or were currently exploring their ethnic identity were also likely to have high identity achieved scores in terms of global identity. That is, students who have achieved their identity are able to focus on other areas of their life, such as ethnic identity. The findings from this study suggest that students who tend to do well are identity achieved individuals who focus on their ethnic identity, are better adjusted to university and are less likely to binge drink.