Definition: With regard to human development, identity refers to the stable, defining characteristics of a person that makes them an individual. Having a solid sense of identity requires a thorough understanding of oneself, including one's own traits, preferences, thought patterns, strengths and weaknesses. To know your identity, you must understand both how you differ from others and how you are similar.
Identity formation is a major focus of psychosocial development during the late tween and adolescent years. In fact, psychologist Erik Erikson asserted that the establishment of a clearer and more committed sense of personal identity is the primary, consuming developmental task of these years.
Tweens often begin to show signs of their identity search by trying out different versions of self, such as by wearing a variety of clothing styles or listening to various types of music. While the frequent changes that result from an identity search may seem bewildering to parents, they are normal and healthy and should be supported.
Rathus, Spencer. Psychology: Concepts and Connections, Brief Version, 8th Edition. 2006. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.