Personal Identity Development in Hispanic Immigrant Adolescents: Links with Positive Psychosocial Functioning, Depressive Symptoms, and Externalizing Problems

J Youth Adolesc. 2017 Apr;46(4):898-913. doi: 10.1007/s10964-016-0615-y. Epub 2016 Nov 23.


The present study was designed to examine trajectories of personal identity coherence and confusion among Hispanic recent-immigrant adolescents, as well as the effects of these trajectories on psychosocial and risk-taking outcomes. Personal identity is extremely important in anchoring young immigrants during a time of acute cultural change. A sample of 302 recently immigrated (5 years or less in the United States at baseline) Hispanic adolescents (Mage = 14.51 years at baseline; SD = 0.88 years, range 14-17) from Miami and Los Angeles (47 % girls) completed measures of personal identity coherence and confusion at the first five waves of a six-wave longitudinal study; and reported on positive psychosocial functioning, depressive symptoms, and externalizing problems at baseline and at Time 6. Results indicated that identity coherence increased linearly across time, but that there were no significant changes in confusion over time and no individual differences in confusion trajectories. Higher baseline levels of, and improvements in, coherence predicted higher levels of self-esteem, optimism, and prosocial behavior at the final study timepoint. Higher baseline levels of confusion predicted lower self-esteem, greater depressive symptoms, more aggressive behavior, and more rule breaking at the final study timepoint. These results are discussed in terms of the importance of personal identity for Hispanic immigrant adolescents, and in terms of implications for intervention.

Keywords: Depressive symptoms; Hispanic; Identity and externalizing behavior problems; Immigrant; Personal identity; Self-esteem.

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation*
  • Adolescent
  • Depression / ethnology*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking
  • Self Concept*
  • United States
  • Young Adult