Identity Distress and Negative Affect in College Students

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Many young people attend college during the peak years of identity exploration. This research examines the prevalence of identity distress among college students and the degree to which participants may meet the DSM-IV classification for identity problem. In addition, this study examines the extent to which participants with high levels of identity distress report symptoms of depression and other symptoms of negative affect. Findings indicated that 8.1% of the sample met the DSM-IV description for identity problem as assessed with the Identity Distress Survey. Those who met the criteria for identity problem reported significantly more loneliness, overwhelming anger, hopelessness, and depression, compared with those without identity problem. The identity areas of long-term goals, friendships, and career were more likely to be rated as causing severe distress and were more likely to be associated with specific negative affect symptoms. Implications regarding prevention programming for emerging adults and college students in particular are discussed.