Religion and identity: An analysis of the relationship between Christianity and adolescent identity development in the U.S.

Plan Author

  • Lillian C. J. de Vrijer, 2012

Fields of Concentration

  • Religion
  • Psychology

Sample Courses

  • Tutorial: Adolescent Identity Development in Present Day USA
  • Tutorial: Experimental Social Psychology
  • Course: Psychotherapies

Project Description

An exploration of the impact of Christianity on adolescent identity development in present-day United States.

Faculty Sponsors

  • Tom Toleno
  • Amer Latif

Outside Evaluator

  • Linda Whiton, Greenfield Community College


Adolescence has always been a critical time in the formation of identity. For most of human history this process was relatively simple, as the forces that influenced an individual’s development were limited to family, community, and religion. In modern society, however, adolescents are exposed to an extremely diverse range of cultural influences, making identity formation significantly more complex. This Plan provides a detailed history of Christianity and examines the role it plays in the formation of identity.

As youths pass through the four different stages of adolescence—latency, pre-adolescence, early, and late—they form an identity by drawing on the cultural forces that surround them. In the past, religion was a monolithic force in this process, both comforting and stifling in its absoluteness. The myriad choices available to contemporary adolescents, by contrast, is more open—but also more intimidating. To affirm their choice of identity, adolescents look to their community of peers for validation. For today’s youth, Christianity exerts the most influence on identity development when it is supported by a community rather than imposed by an authority figure.


“For the adolescent, the development of a personal identity is a very complicated process. Each phase of adolescence presents unique challenges that the individual must face.”

“The United States of America has, since the time of independence, been a nation that prides itself on the apparent separation of church and state. Regardless, Christianity and a variety of other religions have fundamentally impacted the way in which individuals in the U.S. develop.”