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Benson, Janel E. & Elder, Glen H., Jr. (2011). Young Adult Identities and Their Pathways: A Developmental and Life Course Model. Developmental Psychology, 47(6), 1646-1657. PMCID: PMC3792649


Developmental and life course studies of young adult identities have focused on 2 dimensions: subjective age and psychosocial maturity. This study examines the developmental synchrony of these 2 processes. In a longitudinal sample of young adults from Add Health (ages 18-22), a person-centered analysis of indicators of these dimensions identified 4 identity profiles. Two depict early and late patterns of identity; the others represent contrasting types of discordance: pseudo-adult, with subjective age more advanced than maturation level, and anticipatory, with subjective age less advanced than maturational level. The profiles vary by gender, socioeconomic status, and race-ethnicity, as well as by adolescent (ages 12-16) pubertal maturation, psychosocial adjustment, and family context. These results provide support for a more holistic, interdisciplinary understanding of adult identity and show that young adult identities in the Add Health sample follow differentiated paths into the adult years, with largely unknown consequences for the subsequent life course.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Developmental Psychology


Benson, Janel E.
Elder, Glen H., Jr.