James Marcia identified four identity statuses: identity diffusion, identity foreclosure, identity moratorium, and identity achievement. These identity statuses are ways to resolve the identity crisis and then establish a commitment to this identity. In this context, the term crisis is a period of development where the adolescent experiences alternative identities and then chooses. The term commitment is the decision that the adolescent makes on what he or she is going to do. Commitments include occupation, religion, philosophy, sex roles, or personal standard of sexual behavior.
Identity diffusion is the status where adolescents have not experienced any identity crisis yet. They have yet to explore meaningful alternatives and they have yet to make any commitments. During this status, adolescents do not show interest in occupational or ideological choices.
Identity foreclosure is the status where adolescents have decided on a commitment; however, they have not had an identity crisis. That is, the adolescent has not had any opportunity to experience alternatives. The adolescent accepts what others have chosen for him or her. Usually, this occurs when an authoritative parent passes on their commitment to the adolescent. These same adolescents will identify more closely to the same-sex parent. For example, if a father is a mechanic and owns his own business, then his son will become a mechanic and take over the business.
Identity moratorium is a marginal period where the adolescent is on the verge of an identity crisis; however, the adolescent has not made any commitments yet. The term moratorium refers to a period of delay where someone had not yet made a decision. It is during this time that they experience different roles. During this period, adolescents and young adults will court one another, look at different career opportunities, explore philosophies and so on.
Identity achievement is the final status where the individual has gone through a psychological moratorium and have made their decisions for life. These individuals have explored different roles and opportunities and have come to conclusions and made decisions on their own.
In short, James Marcia found that a person’s identity is not “set” and is quite fluid. Before a person’s identity is chosen, individuals go through a process, whether it is forced on them or not, to determine their identity. A person’s identity is made up of commitments made by the individual. These commitments are decisions made throughout one’s life that determines “who” that person will be.