Toward an Integrative Theory of Identity Formation; Three Components of the Religious Identity Formation Process

Gai Halevy, Zehavit Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The religious identity formation process plays an important role in some people’s lives; however, this identity domain has a lack of research. The aim of this study is to understand the process of religious identity development, based on identity formation theory, from a temporal integration perspective (Syed & McLean, 2016) which represents the developmental dimension of Erik Erikson’s theory. Using qualitative methodology, we conducted 158 interviews: 45 semistructured reflective interviews and 113 monthly expressive open interviews over 1.5 years with 20 male emerging adults, age 18–20 years, in three religious Mechina gap year programs in Israel. Content analysis distinguished three components of religious identity – a conceptual component, a practical component and a collective component – which were found to be dominant in different stages of the religious identity formation process and in different social contexts. The findings, which point to two developmental models, relate also to the person-society integration perspective (Syed & McLean, 2016), which represents the contextual dimension of Erikson’s theory; both the developmental and the contextual dimensions are lacking in James Marcia’s operationalization of Erikson’s theory. These findings also shed light on the necessity to relate all these components in the religious identity domain and have the potential for an integrative view of identity formation.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalPastoral Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Gap year
  • Identity components
  • Identity development
  • Identity formation
  • Modern Orthodox
  • Religious identity


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