The concept of identity can be variously defined in different fields as argued by Brock and Tulasiewicz. Some of these disciplines may include Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, and Philosophy. The two scholars define identity as a state of distinctiveness that is achieved by an act of separation produced either by external pressures exercised by a group or individual upon another with the aim of isolating or by a group, society or individual using its own ‘forces propres’ to conceptualize and arrive at some unique characteristics. These two scholars proceed to argue further that since the separation involves a contest or agreement, an identity can only be formed in a system of relations which crystallize into a commitment (Brock & Tulasiewicz pg. 1)
Peverelli, on the other hand, in agreeing with the dictionary of psychology (Bergsma and van Peterson, 2000) perceives identity as the perception of personal unity, the conviction to remain unchanged and essentially the same (p. 1). His definition assumes that an individual’s identity is based on a continuum as it is perceived to originate from within an individual.
From these two definitions, it is conclusive to argue that this concept can be explained through three major dimensions; how an individual perceives him/herself, how others perceive him and the resultant interaction between these two aspects. A comprehensive definition of identity thus not only involves one’s stand on moral and spiritual matters but also important to note is that reference has to be made to the surrounding environment, the people around and the community at large.
Having understood the concept of identity, it is key to note that there are a multiple perspectives of identity, one of them being social identity. This mainly refers to the formation of a person’s identity in relation to that of social groups (Peverelli 1). These groups can be small groups like associations or larger ones such as religious groups and/or a nation. Such entities not only describe members, but also prescribe the appropriate behavior/ expected code of behavior/ norms/regulations for the members. Of importance to not is that identity formation of one group is dependent on the perception of the relation between that group and another (Peverelli p. 2)
Corporate identity on the other hand may refer to the presumptions of an enterprise or what it is and how it wishes to be perceived by others. An enterprise ideally constructs an ‘identity’ and then devises a strategy to promote it to its stakeholders. This again is according to Perevelli (p. 3). This is more often than not clearly brought out through the designing of logos as well as promotional publications.
Cultural identity is yet another perspective. It can be understood as an individual’s sense of his own culture. This is of importance given that certain situations can predispose an individual to forgetting his own cultural identity. A classic example of this is America where a variety of ethnicities and cultures are known to exist making it an uphill task for one to maintain the knowledge of his heritage. Other perspectives of identity may include linguistic perspective, religious, gender, and so on and so forth.
Children are known to develop their understanding of self from the environment in which they grow. It therefore goes without mentioning that the family, as the basic unit of any society plays a tremendous role in shaping the identity of children as they grow through the various stages of development to adulthood. The manner in which a family members associate with one another and operate as a unit has a bearing on a child’s socialization, self-esteem as well as cultural identity. It offers the members a sense of belonging and identity in a variety of ways.
First and foremost, gender roles are best learnt within a family setting. Both gender roles are likely to be viewed in the same way the parents do in the process of development from infancy. Such tasks may include taking out of trash and mowing the land for boys while girls may learn key tips in house cleaning, washing dishes, cooking food among others. Children who are raised having identified themselves with such roles are more likely to perform them throughout their lives. They strongly identify with their role expectations and become flexible in their relationships.
Another role that is played by the family is cultural identity. Child rearing exercises take place in families with prominent ethnic traditions. This offers a suitable platform for the children to identify with their ethnicity. Those that miss out on this component are less likely to identify with their ethnicity. This phenomenon can largely be attributed to the fact that the family environment has the capacity to affect the self-perceptions of the individuals throughout the stages of development.
Religious identity is yet another influence that an individual exposed to as a result of belonging in a family. A family’s religious background has huge implications on and influences the religious identity of many people as they develop from childhood to adulthood. There is a higher likelihood of an adult child to attend religious services and adopt the parents’ religious attitudes. This is more-so the case in as far as the male children are concerned. Some of them even take their religious affiliation as acquired from the family into their new homes and families.
Apart from that, parents are known to be more responsive to their children. They encourage them more and offer them support in many instances. This becomes a recipe for children with higher levels of self confidence. In contradiction to this, a more critical parenting style most of the time leads to the development of children that are characteristically known to have lower self-esteem. This is especially the case where criticisms are time and again directed towards a child’s physical appearance according to psychologists.
Other than the family, mental illness has also been known to have an enormous capacity of influencing one’s identity. As herein mentioned, identity is a concept that largely depends on the surrounding. Any individual’s identity in inherently social owing to the fact that other individuals are involved in shaping it. Our social identity for instance essentially refers to the way we identify ourselves in relation to the social group we are part. This translates that our social identity is managed through careful management of impression in a bid to have some influence on the way that our identity is constructed.
An individual is perceived to have deviated when they no longer show any willingness or ability to act in agreement to the set code of behavior or the norms. It is also a known fact that social identity is directly related to the perception that others have of someone. From this, it is clear that any form of deviance will consequently have an impact an individual’s identity.
Different behaviors may be labeled deviant by society. An example of such behaviors may include any sexual orientation that is different from heterosexual associations. Heterosexual relations have been seen as ideal in most societies. It is only in a few societies that is accepted. In most societies, it is therefore expected that this would be the ideal sexual orientation. Other orientations such as homosexuality or engaging in bestiality are labeled deviant in such societies.
As earlier noted, it is also worth mentioning that there exists a wide range of behaviors that are labeled deviant. This is largely dependent on the context as it is this that determines the definition of these behaviors.
Deviant behavior is more often than not associated with mental illness and mental illness can have a significant effect on one’s identity. This is especially the case in the event that a particular behavior is associated with a given mental disorder. These disorders consequently are known to attract negative attitudes and it is these negative attitudes towards mental disorders that are known to mitigate the effect on the formation of an individual’s identity.