Identity Complexity and Integration in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Heterosexual Adolescents and Emerging Adults: Implications for Clinical Practice

Simona Picariello, Cristiano Scandurra, Seth J. Schwartz, Anna Lisa Amodeo


The study aimed at assessing whether differences exist in identity complexity and integration between 31 lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) and 33 heterosexual youths whose mean age was 21.47 (SD = 3.27). It constitutes a pilot study using a newly created questionnaire, called Identity Labels and Life Contexts Questionnaire (ILLCQ), which assesses the interplay between identity dimensions and life contexts. The ILLCQ allows to assess identity integration on three levels: 1) the integration among the different domains of identity in their intersection with the various life contexts (assessed through salience and centrality); 2) the integration between an individual’s self-definition and the definition mirrored by others (perceived self-recognition); and 3) the integration between how she/he feels her/himself to be and the way she/he shows her/himself to others. Results suggest that identity salience is significantly variable across the life contexts for both LGB and heterosexual youths. The only significant difference found between groups was higher salience and centrality of the sexual orientation domain for LGB youths. This constitutes a sort of core identity for LGB participants, which seems to be missing in the heterosexual counterparts. LGB youths reported general lower identity recognition on the part of other people. Implications for clinical practice are discussed.


Identity integration; LGB youths; sexual orientation; ILLCQ; identity development

Full Text:



Almeida, J., Johnson, R. M., Corliss, H. L., Molnar, B. E., & Azrael, D. (2009). Emotional distress among LGBT youths: The influence of perceived discrimination based on sexual orientation. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38(7), 1001-1014.

Aleni Sestito L., Sica L. S., Ragozini G. (2011). I primi anni dell'Università: Processi di definizione dell'identità tra confusione e consolidamento [First years of university: Identity formation processes between confusion and consolidation]. Giornale Italiano di Psicologia dello Sviluppo, 99, 22-35.

Amodeo, A. L., Picariello, S., Valerio, P., Bochicchio, V., & Scandurra, C. (2017). Group psychodynamic counselling with final-year undergraduates in clinical psychology: A clinical methodology to reinforce academic identity and psychological well-being. Psychodynamic Practice, 23(2), 161-180.

Amodeo, A. L., Picariello, S., Valerio, P., & Scandurra, C. (2018). Empowering transgender youths: Promoting resilience through a group training program. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health, 22(1), 3-19.

Baams, L., Grossman, A. H., & Russell, S. T. (2015). Minority stress and mechanisms of risk for depression and suicidal ideation among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. Developmental Psychology, 51(5), 688-696.

Bilodeau, B. L., & Renn, K. A. (2005). Analysis of LGBT identity development models and implications for practice. New Directions for Student Services, 111.

Bochicchio, V., Perillo, P., Valenti, A., Chello, F., Amodeo, A. L., Valerio, P., & Scandurra, C. (2019). Pre-service teachers’ approaches to gender-nonconforming children in preschool and primary school: Clinical and educational implications. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health, 23(2), 117-144.

Bosma, H. A., & Kunnen, E. S. (2001). Determinants and mechanisms in ego identity development: A review and synthesis. Developmental Review, 21(1), 39‐66.

Clément, R., Noels, K. A., & Deneault, B. (2001). Interethnic contact, identity, and psychological adjustment: The mediating and moderating roles of communication. Journal of Social Issues, 57(3), 559–577.

Cole, E. R. (2008). Coalitions as a model for intersectionality: From practice to theory. Sex Roles, 59(5/6), 443-453.

Côté, J. E. (2000). Arrested adulthood: The changing nature of maturity and identity. New York: New York University Press.

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1(8), 139-167.

Crenshaw, K. (1993). Beyond racism and misogyny: Black feminism and 2 live crew. In D. T. Meyers (Ed.), Feminist social thought: A reader (pp. 245-263). New York, NY: Routledge.

Crocetti, E., Rabaglietti, E., & Sica, L. S. (2012). Personal identity in Italy. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 138, 87-102.

Crocetti, E., Rubini, M., & Meeus, W. (2008). Capturing the dynamics of identity formation in various ethnic groups: Development and validation of a three-dimensional model. Journal of Adolescence, 31(2), 207-222.

D’Augelli, A. R., Grossman, A. H., & Starks, M. T. (2006). Childhood gender atypicality, victimization, and PTSD among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21(11), 1462-1482.

Elizur, Y., & Ziv, M. (2001). Family support and acceptance, gay male identity, and psychological adjustment: A path model. Family Process, 40(2), 125-144.

Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.

Farrelly, C. M., Schwartz, S. J., Amodeo, A. L., Feasterb, D. J., Steinley, D. L., Meca, A., & Picariello, S. (2017). The analysis of bridging constructs with hierarchical clustering methods: An application to identity. Journal of Research in Personality, 70, 93-106.

Floyd, F. J., & Stein, T. S. (2002). Sexual orientation identity formation among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths: Multiple patterns of milestone experiences. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 12(2), 167-191.

Floyd, S. W., Cornelissen, J. P., Wright, M., & Delios, A. (2011). Processes and practices of strategizing and organizing: Review, development, and the role of bridging and umbrella constructs. Journal of Management Studies, 48(5), 933-952.

Grotevant, H. D. (1993). The integrative nature of identity: Bringing the soloists to sing in the choir. In J. Kroger (Ed.), Discussions on ego identity (pp. 121-146). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc

Halpert, S. C. (2002). Suicidal behavior among gay male youths. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy, 6(3),53-79.

Harter, S. (2012). Emerging Self-Processes during Childhood and Adolescence, pp. 680-715 in Leary, M. R. & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity (2nded.). New York: Guilford.

Harter, S., Bresnick, S., Bouchey, H., A., Whitesell, N., R. (1997). The development of multiple role-related selves during adolescence. Development and Psychopathology, 9(4), 835-853.

Harter, S., & Monsour, A. (1992). Development analysis of conflict caused by opposing attributes in the adolescent self-portrait. Developmental Psychology, 28(2), 251-260.

Igartua, K. J., Gill, K., & Montoro, R. (2003). Internalized homophobia: A factor in depression, anxiety, and suicide in the gay and lesbian population. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 22(2), 15-30.

Jones, S. R., & McEwen, M. K. (2000). A conceptual model of multiple dimensions of identity. Journal of College Student Development, 41(4), 405-414.

Kelleher, C. (2009). Minority stress and health: Implications for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 22(4), 373-379.

Leary, M. R. (1995). Social psychology series. Self-presentation: Impression management and interpersonal behavior. Madison, WI, US: Brown & Benchmark Publishers.

Leary, M. R. (2007). Motivational and emotional aspects of the self. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 317-344.

Lingiardi, V., Nardelli, N., Ioverno, S., Falanga, S., Di Chiacchio, C., Tanzilli, A., & Baiocco, R. (2016). Homonegativity in Italy: Cultural issues, personality characteristics, and demographic correlates with negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 13(2), 95-108.

Luyckx, K., Goossens, L., &Soenens, B. (2006). A developmental contextual perspective on identity construction in emerging adulthood: Change dynamics in commitment formation and commitment evaluation. Developmental Psychology, 42(2), 366-380.

Marcia, J. E. (1993). The ego identity status approach to ego identity. In J. E. Marcia, A. S. Waterman , D. R. Matteson, S. L. Archer, & J. L. Orlofsky (Eds.), Ego identity: A handbook for psychosocial research (pp. 1–21). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Marcia, J.E. (1966). Development and validation of ego-identity status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3(5), 551-558.

McCormack, M. (2012). The Declining significance of homophobia: How teenage boys are redefining masculinity and heterosexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.

McCrone, S. (2018). LGBT healthcare disparities, discrimination, and societal stigma: The mental and physical health risks related to sexual and/or gender minority status. American Journal of Medical Research, 5(1), 91-96.

McDaniel, J. S., Purcell, D., & D’Augelli, A. R. (2001). The relationship between sexual orientation and the risk for suicide: Research findings and future directions for research and prevention. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 31 (Suppl.), 84-105.

Meeus, W. (2011). The study of adolescent identity formation 2000–2010: A review of longitudinal research. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 75–94.

Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129(5), 674-697.

Narváez, R. F., Meyer, I. H., Kertzner, R. M., Ouellette, S. C., & Gordon, A. R. (2009): A Qualitative approach to the intersection of sexual, ethnic, and gender identities. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 9(1), 63-86.

Phillips, T. M., & Pittman, J. F. (2003). Identity processes in poor adolescents: Exploring the linkages between economic disadvantage and the primary task of adolescence. Identity: AnInternational Journal of Theory and Research, 3(2), 115-129.

Oyserman, D., & Destin, M. (2010). Identity-based motivation: Implications for intervention. The Counseling Psychologist, 38(7) 1001–1043.

Page, M. J. L., Lindahl, K. M., & Malik, N. M. (2013). The role of religion and stress in sexual identity and mental health among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 23(4), 665-677.

Russell, S. T., & Joyner, K. (2001). Adolescent sexual orientation and suicide risk: Evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 91(8), 1276-1981.

Russell, S. T., Ryan, C., Toomey, R. B., Diaz, R. M., & Sanchez, J. (2011). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescent school victimization: implications for young adult health and adjustment. The Journal of School Health, 81(5), 223-230.

Scandurra, C., Bacchini, D., Esposito, C., Bochicchio, V., Valerio, P., & Amodeo, A. L. (2019a). The influence of minority stress, gender, and legalization of civil unions on parenting desire and intention in lesbian women and gay men: Implications for social policy and clinical practice. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 15(1), 76-100.

Scandurra, C., Bochicchio, V., Amodeo, A. L., Esposito, C., Valerio, P., Maldonato, N. M., Bacchini, D., & Vitelli, R. (2018a). Internalized transphobia, resilience, and mental health: Applying the Psychological Mediation Framework to Italian transgender individuals. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(3), 508e.

Scandurra, C., Braucci, O., Bochicchio, V., Valerio, P., Amodeo, A. L. (2019b). “Soccer is a matter of real men?” Sexist and homophobic attitudes in three Italian soccer teams differentiated by sexual orientation and gender identity. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 17(3), 285-301.

Scandurra, C., Picariello, S., Scafaro, D., Bochicchio, V., Valerio, P., & Amodeo, A. L. (2018b). Group psychodynamic counselling as a clinical training device to enhance metacognitive skills and agency in future clinical psychologists. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 14(2), 444-463.

Scandurra, C., Picariello, S., Valerio, P., & Amodeo, A. L. (2017). Sexism, homophobia, and transphobia in a sample of Italian pre-service teachers: The role of socio-demographic features. Journal of Education for Teaching, 43(2), 245-261.

Schwartz, S. J. (2001). The evolution of Eriksonian and neo-Eriksonian identity theory and research: A review and integration. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 1(1), 7-58.

Schwartz, S. J., Côté, J. E., & Arnett, J. J. (2005). Identity and agency in emerging adulthood: Two developmental routes in the individualization process. Youth and Society, 37(2), 201-229.

Schwartz, S. J., Luyckx, K., & Vignoles, V. L. (Eds.) (2011). Handbook of identity theory and research. New York: Springer.

Sellers, R. M., Smith, M. A., Shelton, J. N., Rowley, S. A. J., & Chavous, T. M. (1998). Multidimensional model of racial identity: A reconceptualization of African American racial identity. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2, 18-39.

Settineri, S., Frisone, F., & Merlo, E. M. (2018). Psychotraumatology of images in gender dysphoria. The Open Psychology Journal, 11(1), 222-234.

Settineri, S., Merlo, E. M., Turiaco, F., & Mento, C. (2018). Les organes endommagés dans la constitution de l’image de l’esprit. L’Évolution Psychiatrique, 83(2), 333-342.

Sica, L. S., & Aleni Sestito, L. (2010) Sarò come adesso ma con la barba”: Costruzione dell’identità ed esplorazione dei sé possibili in adolescenti sottoposti a misura penale. [“I’ll be like now, but I’ll wear a beard”: Identity construction and possible selves exploration in deviant adolescents]. Giornale di Psicologia, 4(2), 184-203.

Swann, W. B., Jr. (2012). Self-verification theory. In P. A. M. Van Lange, A. W. Kruglanski, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of theories of social psychology (pp. 23-42). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd.

Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2001). Using multivariate statistics (4th ed.). New York, NY: Allyn & Bacon.

Templeton, G. F. (2011). A two-step approach for transforming continuous variables to normal: Implications and recommendations for IS research. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 28(4), 41-58.

Transue, J. E. (2007). Identity salience, identity acceptance, and racial policy attitudes: American national identity as a uniting force. American Journal of Political Science. 51(1), 78–91.

Vita, R., Settineri, S., Liotta, M., Benvenga, S., & Trimarchi, F. (2018). Changes in hormonal and metabolic parameters in transgender subjects on cross-sex hormone therapy: A cohort study. Maturitas, 107, 92-96.

Vitelli, R., Scandurra, C., Pacifico, R., Selvino, M. S., Picariello, S., Amodeo, A. L., Valerio, P., & Giami, A. (2017). Trans identities and medical practice in Italy: Self-positioning towards gender affirmation surgery. Sexologies, 26(4), 43-51.

Williamson, I. R. (2000). Internalized homophobia and health issues affecting lesbians and gay men. Health Education Research, 15(1), 97-107.

Yoder, A. (2000). Barriers to ego identity status formation: A contextual qualification of Marcia’s identity status paradigm. Journal of Adolescence, 23, 95-106.

Yopyk, D. J. A., & Prentice, D. A. (2005). Am I an Athlete or a Student? Identity Salience and Stereotype Threat in Student–Athletes. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 27(4), 329-336.



  • There are currently no refbacks.