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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 25  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 21-26

The association between identity status, perceived parenting strategies, and mental health of in-school adolescents in South-West Nigeria: A descriptive survey

1 Department of Community Medicine, Family Medicine Unit, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan; Department of Family Medicine, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria
2 Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan; Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria

Date of Submission18-Jan-2020
Date of Decision21-Mar-2020
Date of Acceptance23-May-2020
Date of Web Publication7-Oct-2020

Correspondence Address:
Abimbola Margaret Obimakinde
Department of Community Medicine, Family Medicine Unit, Faculty of Public Health/Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jmhhb.jmhhb_1_20

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Aim: This study was aimed to determine the level of identity development, its associations with perceived parenting strategies, and the mental health of in-school adolescents. Background: Adolescence is marked with the struggle for a balance between subjective psychological differentiation and connection to others, which drives identity formation and guides the path to mental health. Concerning, the developmental processes that incite or escalate adolescents' mental health problems, theories have postulated that social interactions with parents have consequences for the identity status and mental health of adolescents. Methods: A study on 286 in-school adolescents was conducted in Ibadan, between February and April 2016. Data were collected using the Assessment of Identity Development in Adolescents, Scale of Parenting Style, and the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaires. The analysis was done with the Statistical Package for Social Sciences version 21, using Student's t-test, ANOVA, and correlation statistics. Results: The males and younger adolescents, had higher scores for identity discontinuity and incoherence. The scores for perceived mothers' responsiveness correlates positively with the adolescents' score for identity discontinuity (rs= 0.173; P = 0.03), while perceived mothers' demandingness correlates positively with adolescents' identity discontinuity (rs= 0.211; P < 0.001) and incoherence (rs= 0.180; P = 0.01). Identity discontinuity (rs= 0.209; P = 0.00) and incoherence (rs= 0.294; P = 0.00) correlated positively with emotional problems while identity incoherence correlated with conduct problems (rs= 0.211; P = 0.03). Conclusion: During the process of the adolescents' self-actualization, there is a tendency for “conflict” with the parents as the primary authority figure. Hence, the adolescents' perception of parenting strategies can affect their identity development and mental health.

Keywords: Adolescence, identity-discontinuity, identity-incoherence, mental-health, parenting-strategies

How to cite this article:
Obimakinde AM, Omigbodun O. The association between identity status, perceived parenting strategies, and mental health of in-school adolescents in South-West Nigeria: A descriptive survey. J Mental Health Hum Behav 2020;25:21-6

How to cite this URL:
Obimakinde AM, Omigbodun O. The association between identity status, perceived parenting strategies, and mental health of in-school adolescents in South-West Nigeria: A descriptive survey. J Mental Health Hum Behav [serial online] 2020 [cited 2023 Jun 9];25:21-6. Available from: https://www.jmhhb.org/text.asp?2020/25/1/21/297409

  Introduction Top

Identity can be described as an attitude or a resolution of an individual.[1],[2] It encompasses internal self-structure, which is a person's drive, abilities, and beliefs as shaped by the person's history.[1],[2] In adolescence, there are four stages of identity development, namely, foreclosure, moratorium, diffusion, and achieved.[1],[2] Each stage of identity development is characterized by varying levels of exploration and commitments to life issues, as appreciated by the growing adolescent.[1] During the process of identity development in adolescents, the two aspects of cognitive development that have received much attention are the domains of moral reasoning and interpersonal perspective.[3] Kohlberg and Piaget theorizes that the capacity to morally reason grows more complex and differentiated over time in adolescents, with resultant advancing identity coherence and continuity.[3],[4] Development during adolescence is a socio-genetic process, with learning coming about through social interactions between adolescents and adults.[5] It is important to note that the frequent adult figure in an adolescent's life, is none other than the parents or primary caregiver. Relationships with parents are key factors in adolescents' development, and different patterns of parent-adolescent relationships exist in the parenting strategies deployed, which influences the adolescent's physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development.[6] Parenting strategies include the parents' behaviors, attitudes, and values utilized in grooming adolescents' socialization process.[7],[8] Parenting style can be assessed based on the parents' emotional responsiveness to the adolescents' needs and methods of discipline or demandingness.[7],[8] Demandingness implies, the demands, supervision, and requirements imposed by maternal and paternal figures, while responsiveness implies the emotional sensitivity, communication, and commitment of parents, to their adolescents.[9],[10] An adolescent can feel close or distant from a parent figure, depending on the perceived parenting strategy, the adolescents who feel close to their caregivers, tend to value the caregivers'opinions highly and are likely to seek guidance for difficult situations. Similarly, such adolescents are likely to spend more time with their family and have less opportunity to engage in deviant behavior, which is a core dynamic underlying the social control theory of adolescent conduct problems.[11],[12] Overall, parent-adolescent connectedness, which is the crux of balanced parental demandingness and responsiveness, has been linked to identity coherence, decreased risk for problems behaviors and increased prosocial behaviors.[11]

  Methods Top

Setting and participants

This was an interviewer guided self-administered questionnaire-based study, conducted among assenting in-school adolescents. It was a descriptive cross-sectional multistage study design, conducted between February and April 2016, among 286 pupils in 4 selected secondary schools. Two public and 2 private schools were randomly selected, each from the list of 13 public and 16 private schools in the Northwest Local Government Area of Ibadan, Oyo State, South-West Nigeria. The 2 public schools had student populations of 794 and 1068, while the two private schools had student populations of 186 and 50, with a total of 2098 adolescents, from which 286 were recruited by proportional allocation. Ethical clearance was obtained from the Oyo State Ethics Review Board, and permissions were obtained from the State Ministry of Education and the schools' authorities. In each of the selected schools, one class was randomly selected from each of the six levels in the Nigerian secondary school system, i.e., Junior Secondary School (JSS) 1–3 and the Senior Secondary School (SSS) 1–3. Adolescents were selected by systematic random sampling from each selected class. Assenting adolescents, who had parental permission sent in, were enrolled.

Data collection and instruments

The Assessment of Identity Development in Adolescents(AIDA) questionnaire, the Scale of Parenting Styles (SPS) questionnaire, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) were used.[2],[10],[13],[14] All questionnaires were administered by the researcher and trained research assistants. The AIDA is an adolescent self-reported questionnaire that measures identity development, which can be utilized to differentiate healthy identity, i.e., “identity integration,” from an identity crisis otherwise referred to as, “identity diffusion.”[2],[14] The AIDA scale evaluates psychopathology, with a total scale measuring “Identity diffusion” and the two primary subscales measuring “Discontinuity” and “Incoherence.”[2],[14] The total scale “Identity Diffusion” and the primary subscales of “Discontinuity” and “Incoherence” have excellent scale reliabilities at, Cronbach alpha (α) of 0.94, 0.86, and 0.92 respectively.[2] The AIDA has 58 items with six different sub-domains, of which three sub-domains, “Attributes,” “Relationships,” and “Emotional Self-Reflection (SR),” measures “Discontinuity.” The other three sub-domains, which are “Consistent Self-Sameness (SS),” “Autonomy” and “Cognitive SR,” measures “Incoherence.”[2],[15] The answering mode for the 58 classical items is a 5-step format with 0 = no, 1 = less no, 2 = part no/part yes, 3 = less yes and 4 = yes. The higher the scores for each item on the AIDA domains and sub-domain the more likely the “identity diffusion” across each of the items.[2],[15] The AIDA has been adapted for cultural suitability in Nigeria and the mean scores of the AIDA were used for data interpretation in this study.[16]

The Scale of Parenting Styles (SPS) is a cross-culturally validated 38-items questionnaire that measured the perceived parenting styles of the adolescents. A total of 19-items each measured perceived parental responsiveness and demandingness, respectively.[10] All items are positively worded and are rated on a five-point scale as follows: “always true,” “almost true,” “sometimes true-sometimes false,” “mostly false,” and “always false,” scored on a range of 5 to 1 respectively.[10] This questionnaire is arranged such that each parent can be scored separately for the level of responsiveness and demandingness. Thus, the instrument yielded four scores for each participant, namely the mother's responsiveness, father's responsiveness, mother's demandingness, and father's demandingness.[10] The score for either responsiveness or demandingness ranged from 19 to 95 (median = 47.5), and the score is taken as high when it is above median and low when it is below the median.[10]

The self-reported adolescent version of SDQ was used to obtain information about 25 mental health attributes of adolescents. These 25-items are divided into five scales, with 5-items each measuring emotional problems, conduct problems, hyperactivity/inattention problems, peer relationship problems, and prosocial behavior.[13] Each of the five scales of the SDQ are scored from 0 to 10, for each diagnostic grouping. The first four scales were added up to generate a total difficulties score (based on twenty items) while the fifth prosocial scale was taken as the mental health strengths score (based on five items).[13] The emotional, conduct, hyperactivity, and peer problems scales were added up to obtain a total diffculties score on a range of 0–40, while the strength score was on a range of 0–10.[13] The SDQ validation in Nigeria yielded high sensitivity and specificity,[17] and data interpretation for this study, was done utilizing the mean scores of each five items and categorized difficulty scores.

Data analysis

Data analysis was done using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences version 21 (IBM Corp., Armonk, New York). The Student's t-test was used to test the association between mean scores of SDQ and AIDA scores. Correlation analysis was done to test the association between AIDA scores and the scores the SPS parenting strategies domains. ANOVA was used to test the association between multichotomous variables, and all results were reported at a 5% level of statistical significance.

  Results Top

This study was conducted among 286 adolescents (aged 10–19 years), selected, from a total population of 2098, from the four secondary schools. There were 144 (50.3%) males and 142 (49.7%) females, of which 156 (54.5%) were in JSS, while 130 (45.5) were in SSS. Of the adolescents, 128 (44.8) were in the age range 10–13 years, and 158 (55.2) were in the age range of 14–19 years.

Identity status of the adolescents

[Table 1] shows that male adolescents scored higher in the domain of discontinuity (63.4 ± 14.3) and incoherence (73 ± 24.1) compared to females (60.7 ± 14.2; 72 ± 20.9) at a P = 0.89. This difference is slightly marked in the identity diffusion sub-domains concerning, relationship (P = 0.08), emotional SR (P = 0.58), consistent SS (P = 0.15), and cognitive SR (P = 0.41).
Table 1: Assessment of identity development status in adolescents scores by gender

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The adolescents in the early phase of development scored higher in domains of discontinuity (62.6 ± 15.3) and incoherence (73.2 ± 25.3) than those in older phases of adolescence. This is against mean scores of (61.3 ± 14.5; 72.6 ± 19.5), for the adolescents in the middle phase and (61.8 ± 9.9; 71.1 ± 22.6), for those in the late phase [Table 2].
Table 2: Assessment of identity development status in adolescents scores by age group

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The adolescents in the middle phase had a higher mean score for identity diffusion in the sub-domain of emotional SR, (16.5 ± 4.9) than those in the early (15.6 ± 6.4) and late phase (15.6 ± 4.6), P = 0.39. [Table 2] depicts that the older adolescents had less identity diffusion in the sub-domain of autonomy (28.6 ± 10.1) compared to those in the middle and early phase of adolescence, who had an average score of 30. [Figure 1] shows that the adolescents scored much higher for the incoherence than discontinuity the two main domains of identity diffusion.
Figure 1: Box plot of mean scores of incoherence and discontinuity

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Mean scores

Correlation of Assessment of Identity Development in Adolescents (identity status assessment) scores and Scale of Parenting Styles items scores

[Table 3] shows the correlation between the scores of the domains and sub-domains of identity diffusion and SDQ items. Prosocial behavior correlated positively and significantly with “attributes” (0.177), “consistent SS” (0.203), and “cognitive SR” (0.190). Conduct problems correlated significantly and negatively (−0.029) with “attributes” at P = 0.76 and positively (0.211) with “cognitive SR.” Emotional problems correlated significantly and positively with discontinuity (0.209), emotional SR (0.315), incoherence (0.294), autonomy (0.289), and cognitive SR (0.178).
Table 3: Correlation of assessment of identity development in adolescents scores with total strength and difficulty questionnaires symptom-scores

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Mental health difficulty and the corresponding Assessment of Identity Development in Adolescents scores

[Table 4] shows adolescents with abnormal mental health difficulty scored higher for identity diffusion in the domain of incoherence (102.0 ± 1.0), and subdomains of autonomy (41.5 ± 3.5) and cognitive SR (22.6 ± 7.5), compared to those without mental health difficulty (72.3 ± 22.4; 29.8 ± 10.2; 17.9 ± 7.6). Adolescents with mental health difficulty, had a mean score of 23.0 ± 4.4, for identity diffusion in the domain of emotional self-regulation and those without mental health difficulty had a mean score of 15.7 ± 5.6 (P = 0.06).
Table 4: Mental health difficulty and the corresponding assessment of identity development in adolescents score

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Parenting strategies and identity status (Assessment of Identity Development in Adolescents scores) of the adolescents

[Table 5] shows that perceived mothers' demandingness correlated significantly (P < 0.05) and positively with identity diffusion in both domains and all sub-domains of AIDA except for cognitive SR (P = 0.46), subdomain. Perceived mothers' responsiveness correlated significantly with identity development in the sub-domains of relationships with others (rs= 0.153, P = 0.03) and consistent SS, (rs= 0.180, P = 0.01). In contrast, perceived fathers' parenting strategies did not significantly correlate with identity status.
Table 5: Parenting dimensions and assessment of identity development in adolescents scores correlation statistic

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  Discussion Top

This study showed that male adolescents had higher scores for identity diffusion concerning “relationship,” “emotional SR,” “consistent SS,” and “cognitive SR.” This finding is similar to what was reported by a study conducted by Jung et al. published in 2013, where it was also observed that boys score significantly higher for identity diffusion than girls.[15] A plausible explanation is that; the female adolescent typically attains autonomy faster than the male counterpart.[18] This may be contributory to the reasons the female adolescents achieve identity integration earlier than their male counterparts. This study revealed higher scores for identity diffusion in the area of “consistent SS” in males compared to females. This is buttressed again, by the fact that female adolescents attain autonomy earlier and develop, coherent identity faster, while the male adolescents, may remain relatively suggestible longer, before attaining a stable identity.[3],[15],[18] In addition, suggestibility and lack of root, which is a measure of a discontinuity, contributes to identity diffusion in male adolescents.[15]

This study showed that there were more discontinuity and incoherence in the early phase of adolescence. This is an expected occurrence, because the younger adolescents, are just “coming of age” and yet to achieve cognitive maturity in the domain of interpersonal perspective and moral reasoning.[3],[18] The AIDA scores variation across stages of adolescence in this study is in tandem with previous work on identity development, which explained that the early adolescent typically possesses individualistic “reasoning,” but by middle to late adolescence, reasoning progresses to include mutual understandings and concerns for others.[3],[4]

The studied adolescents scored much higher in the domain of incoherence, which is an interesting result. The assumption that may be made from this is that the group of adolescents that were studied have more issues regarding identity “incoherence” than with “discontinuity.” Incoherence as a domain of identity diffusion is associated with being contradictory, suggestible, having superficial mental representation, poor cognition, and motives, while discontinuity is associated with a lack of feeling of belonging and lack of emotional access to a level of reality.[2]

Pearson's analysis in this study showed that the identity status in the sub-domains of “attributes” “consistent SS” and “cognitive SR” correlates positively with prosocial behavior among the studied adolescents. This is an important result, as it is known that, identity status acting through these three sub-domains, foster adolescents' prosocial behaviors.[19],[20] A study on prosocial behavior and identity status in adolescents reported that positive attributes such as kindness, caring, and altruism engenders prosocial behaviors in adolescents, buttressing the correlation of prosocial behavior with “attributes” in this study.[20] It has also been reported that active internalization, which is akin to “cognitive self-reflection (SR)” of prosocial values, helps adolescents to engage in voluntarism.[20] Identity, has been defined as a coherent sense of an integrated set of personal interests, values, and goals, which is important in the development of prosocial value.[20] This gives credence to the finding of this study, which revealed a negative correlation between the domain of “incoherence” and prosocial behavior.

The means scores of the AIDA items against the abnormal mental health difficulty scores for the study participants showed higher scores in the sub-domains of “emotional SR,” “cognitive SR” and “autonomy.” This is similar to the finding by Junget al., which revealed that adolescents with internalizing and externalizing disorders, scored slightly above the population norm.[15] The aforementioned, suggests that adolescents experiencing higher levels of identity diffusion may suffer mental health difficulty, as observed in this study.[15],[20] Jung et al., also found that adolescents with conduct problems, had a relatively high “consistent self-image” (e.g., in terms of a stable criminal identity like “I am a bad guy and feel confident about that”) and perceived themselves as autonomous (e.g., “I do whatever I want”).[15] The statements above can be likened to findings in this study because the adolescents with borderline and abnormal mental health difficulty scored higher for “consistent SS” compared to those without mental health difficulty, as evaluated by an affirmative response to these statements in the AIDA questionnaire.

Identity integration in adolescence is the basis of healthy personality in adulthood, and it is associated with adolescents' feelings of being accepted and trusted by parents.[21],[22] In attempting to explore this association, we conducted a correlation analysis between adolescent identity status and perceived parenting style. We found a positive correlation between maternal parenting strategy and identity status, which is in tandem with a previous study by Romano.[22] She discovered that identity achievement correlated more with maternal responsiveness, leading to the conclusion that parents, especially mothers, can facilitate a developmental process of identity formation and integration. Romano also submitted that responsive parenting which affirms, set standards for future conduct and grant psychological autonomy, encourages identity integration in adolescents.[22] Hence, from this study and other similar studies, it may be inferred that a balanced level of responsiveness and demandingness in parenting strategies can protect against “identity-diffusion”. In contrast, lax parental responsiveness or excessive demandingness encourages “identity-diffusion”.[21],[22]

During adolescence, balanced parenting strategies characterized by supervision, guidance, and connectedness, facilitate a successful transition into a positive peer context, mental health, and development of healthy identity in the adolescent. However, when adolescents are overtly controlled by excessively demanding parents or are too quickly given excessive freedom and unsupervised time, a process called premature autonomy, they are at significant risk for mental health problems.[23],[24]

Strength and limitation

The strength of this study is that it provided some information on the association between parent-adolescents' relationship, identity status, and mental health of adolescents in Nigeria. This bridges an important research gap regarding the impact of parenting strategies on identity formation and the mental health of adolescents, in this region of the world. However, stronger inferences on these associations would have been derived from a longitudinal study design. Therefore, the cross-sectional design of this research may be considered a limitation.

  Conclusion Top

There are significant pieces of evidence from this study that parent-adolescent interactions, in the context of parenting strategies, can affect identity development in adolescences. Consequently, the perceived parenting strategies deployed by parents can mediate or modulate adolescents' mental health and behaviors. Problem behaviors during adolescence may be underscored by identity diffusion characterized by identity discontinuity and incoherence, which may be associated with defective parenting strategies. Therefore, the importance of effective parenting strategies that could foster stable identity prosocial behavior and deter problem behavior cannot be underestimated and should be continuously researched.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]

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