Sunday, March 13, 2011

Internalization part 2

Internalization as part of identity development
In their article Riding the Highs and Lows of Teenage Faith Development Identity Formation and the Importance of Moratorium, Kara Powell and Meredith Miller explain James Marcia's theory of identity development that states that people go through various stages of rest, unrest, and integration in regards to

their faith. Here are the four stages as they list them:

Diffusion "Persons in diffusion have simply not thought about their identity. They are not sure what they believe about key issues such as religion, politics, gender roles, or occupation, nor are they concerned with them."

Foreclosure "This is a status in which adolescents have definite opinions about their identity, but those opinions have been inherited from external forces rather than cultivated from within themselves. They have stable commitments, but have not experienced exploration or crisis."

Moratorium "They question who they are and what they believe and are unable to land on clearly defined beliefs and standards. This is the stage in which individuals challenge what they have inherited. For this reason, they will often express doubts and uncertainties about what they believe."

Achievement "The goal of identity development is to reach the achieved status. It is the status wherein individuals have explored who they are and what they believe and hold stable commitments to a set of beliefs, values and standards. Their identity is defined, and they have thought through their perspectives."

Internalization might be best equated with the "achievement" stage. Powell and Miller challenge youth workers to engage moratorium with the understanding that it will help bring about a more solid, owned faith in an adolescent. Is internalization the achievement stage? The whole process? I am inclined to say that it is the last two phases of identity development- moratorium and achievement.

What do you think?


  1. Sarah...Good thoughts. I agree with you. I'm inclined to think that a positive manifestation of an internalized faith is best demonstrated when a student/adult has the chance to choose either God's way or another way, and they choose God's way - not simply because it is convenient and will be seen by other Christians, but because they are committed to trusting God at his word that what they are doing is right, and causes him to smile. In other words, they choose the right thing not because they fear getting caught by doing something else, or because it will make them look good, but because, no matter if another notices their deed/thought/decision, they sense it is right in their spirit and accords with God's word. It is faithfulness even when inconvenient. It is God-pleasing rather than (temporally) self-pleasing. It is often self-sacrificial rather than self-gratifying, and ultimately, it brings a blessing to others. But, those are just my thoughts! :)

  2. Those are great thoughts. I agree. I think that is a great litmus test of internalization. I wonder how we can help build that faith in young people?
    I think that it might be through creating enviroments that are safe places for adolsecents to wrestle with the decisions they are making. And through vulnerable adult modeling of internatlized faith. The real question then becomes how to build those things into youth minsitry.