The term "identity diffusion" refers to a part of the process of a person figuring out who they are. Typically, it is the part of adolescence when a person has not yet fully realized their social identity or defined their personality traits - and they are not actively seeking to. To develop and establish their identity they will need to make a series of choices and commitments.
Here are some examples of identity diffusion.
- A pre-teenager is asked about her political affiliation - whether she is a Republican, Democrat, or some third party. After thinking about it for a moment, she says that she does not identify with any political party and really doesn't know much about politics.
- When a boy in his teens begins thinking about what he would like to pursue as a career, he realizes that it's a question he has not given much thought, and one that doesn't really interest him. He decides not to commit himself to a particular career choice at the moment since he really doesn't know what he wants to be.
- Some of the teenagers are involved in social cliques at school - the kids who play sports, the ones who listen to pop music, the ones with interests in science and literature. However, Bobby does not identify with any of these social groups and doesn't feel the need to join in.
- A girl in her adolescence has to do a school project about the hobbies that she feels "define" her. She realizes when she thinks about it that, while some of the kids enjoy hiking, fishing, playing sports, or making music, she has never really enjoyed sports, played an instrument, or developed any other type of hobby. She has a difficult time expressing how to define herself.
- When Liz is asked what church her family goes to, she tells her friend that they don't. "What's your religion?" her friend asks. Liz has never thought about religion, nor does her family practice a religion, so she doesn't identify with any religious practices, beliefs or customs.
- A pre-teen boy sits at a lunch table with his friends, who begin talking about baseball. All of them have favorite baseball teams; he is the only one without. He realizes that he doesn't especially care about sports teams and doesn't identify with any particular one.
- The teacher of a sixth grade class asks the students to think of their goals in life. While some of the students have career goals, or want to travel, or desire to write a book, Rodney has a difficult time coming up with goals since he's never thought about the question before.
- While learning about gender roles in society, Kathleen realizes that she doesn't really know what roles men and women should play in a household, and that the question doesn't really seem to excite her or even matter to her.
- Two boys on the playground begin discussing their views on life after death, and what matters in this life. While one boy has given a lot of thought to the matter, the other is unsure and would prefer not to really think about it.
- Paul strongly identifies with the rock and roll music of the eighties and decides that he wants to be a rock and roll musician when he gets older. Bryan, on the other hand, has never developed a strong interest in music and doesn't much care what's playing on the radio.
All of these are examples of identity diffusion because the people involved have not yet made their personal choices to solidify their identity.