The well-used term "identity crisis," originates from Erik Erikson's fifth stage, identity versus confusion, in his eight stages of epigenetic personality development. Presumably occurring during late adolescence, the successful resolution of this crisis develops a healthy identity and a strong sense of fidelity. If not resolved successfully, this may result in confusion about one's role and place in the present and future life experiences (White, Hayes, Livesey, 2013). .
Developmental psychologist, James Marcia (1994, 2006), has extended on Erikson's stage five theory by developing his ego identity status paradigm. His model has been widely used as a means to assess Erikson's ego identity formation theory, which has received much criticism because of its lack of scientific ground. Marcia's extensive research finds that identity is formed through two dimensions, crisis/exploration, and commitment, in four different areas: politics, religion, occupation and interpersonal relationships. Based on the presence or absence of crisis/exploration and commitment, Marcia was able to identify a continuum of four different identity statuses: diffusion (no exploration or commitment), foreclosure (made a commitment without attempting identity exploration), moratorium (actively involved in exploring different identities, but has not made a commitment) and achieved (exploration of different identities and made a commitment to one). Marcia believed that internal and emotional conflicts (crises) of adolescents would stimulate the exploration of new possibilities in their difficult lives. This process would naturally encourage movement along this status continuum, optimally reaching the achieved status, where adolescents have progressively shown commitment to a specific identity. However, critical research (Cote, 2006) has proposed that Marcia's four identity statuses do not naturally operate in a developmental continuum.