Identity Formation

 Identity Formation

  Identity is an individual’s distinct psychological relationship within a given social system or group. It is identity that distinguishes one individual to another in a given social system and therefore its attached importance to the human race. The process of obtaining a given identity from the other is known as identity formation. Identity formation takes place in a given stage of life and involves the establishment of a person’s reputation, sense of uniqueness and affiliation. As a consequence of continuity, this process is impacted or affected by various components or situations. Some of the components of identity formation include gender, race, family, culture and belief among others.

  Research suggests that an individual’s current context as well as his or her socio-historical alignment also contribute to identity. In addition, identity formation is constituted of development, change and maintenance. This paper looks at the components of identity formation (Gender, Race, Family, Culture and Belief) and how they are in turn influenced by language and audience.

 Gender, Race, Family, Culture and Belief

 Gender, race, family, culture and belief are related to the self-identity concept. Self-identity or concept refers to the ability of an individual to gain understanding and knowledge regarding their being. In most cases, self-identity begins with categorizing oneself according to their immediate socio-historical or situational context (Joas, 2000). As a result, an individual is likely to look at his or her immediate family members or race for answers concerning their origin, reputation, beliefs or heritage among others. Conversely, the association of identity with the five components above is derived from the tendency of individuals to find answers about themselves through others or their immediate situations.


 Culture impacts directly on identity as a component of an individual’s sense of belonging. Culture also influences an individual’s affiliation since different cultural groups are likely to be aligned with certain customs and traditions. Culture is also important because it evolves and individuals are likely to associate with such evolutions or changes. In this way, when one individual choses some element of culture and rejects others, his or her identity is defined by the patterns of cultural values or norms preferred (Hitlin, 2003). Apart from being associated with such patterns, he or she also has a sense of belonging to such values.


 Race as a component of identity relates to an individual’s genealogy. In most cases however, different races are distinguished using skin color, which is mostly affected by the geographical origins of given groups of people. As a result, one’s race has a direct impact on his or her identity in many ways. First, race determines one’s physical appearance or characteristics in terms of skin or hair color. In this way, one is able to be identified with other individuals with the same physical characteristics. Further, this association helps in the formation of a bond of identity to individuals from the same race. Secondly, race also impacts identity through common geography despite the fact that individuals are likely to relocate.


 Primarily, gender influences identity for individuals from the onset of their being. In most cases, people are likely to figure out if they are either male or female before anything else. However, there is more to gender identity than the basic male-female categorization. First, gender determines one’s social affiliation in terms of predetermined gender roles in different societies. For instance, it is common to identify people through their behavior similar to social behavior associated with the different gender groups (Schryer, 2005). Secondly, gender also influences an individual’s position in a social structure or group because of assumed responsibilities in such structures.


 As a component of identity, family plays a big role in affiliation. Family can either be biological or adoptive and family members instill identity through taught values and modes of interaction. Externally, family names or values influence an individual’s perceived identity (Stets and Burke, 2000). For instance, it is common to find an individual being characterized as trustworthy or scheming depending on his or her family history. On the other hand, an individual is also likely to introduce him or herself using the family name in order to be recognized by people not well known to him or her.


 Belief refers to strongly held notions about certain people, activities or actions. Consequently, belief also influences an individual’s affiliation or sense of belonging since different groups of individuals are likely to be aligned with others with similar belief systems. In addition, belief systems also evolve and individuals are likely to associate with such evolutions or changes. In this way, when one individual choses some patterns of belief and rejects others, his or her identity is defined by those patterns. In the end, his or her behavior is also likely to be defined by such beliefs (Prentice, 2001). Apart from being associated with such patterns, he or she also makes decisions based on the chosen belief system. Since belief determines decisions, which in turn affect reputation, it is a direct component of identity.

 Possibility of Change

 In the decisions above, it has been noted that gender, race, family, culture and belief influences on individuals are likely to change based on circumstances, history or learned behavior. Even though it is difficult to alter a person’s gender, perceived gender roles have historically evolved and therefore what impacted on identity for a given gender may also evolve (Henslin, 2007). In the same way, racial foundations and its importance on defining individuals have been fast changing in modern societies particularly with globalization. However, culture and belief are the two most fast-changing components of identity. This is because as individuals come of age, they are likely to develop their own independent views ideologies that are likely to alter their initial identities.

 Language on Culture and Audience

 Language interacts with gender, race, family, culture and belief because it defines an individual’s way of communication. However, language is mostly affected by culture because of the expected conduct or forms of speech and other non-verbal expressions involved in interaction (Burke, 2001). On the other hand, audience is also important. It is common for individuals to have different language forms for different audiences because they want to identify or bond differently. In the real world experience, language can be categorized as either formal or non-formal. This is because audience matters and whether one if from a given race, family, culture or belief system, he or she must observe this general rule.