Dissertation Abstracts

Religious, ethnic and masculine identity formation process among students in religious pre-army preparatory courses in Israel

Author: Gai Halevy, gaiah0@walla.com
Department: School of Education
University: Bar-Ilan University, Israel
Supervisor: Prof. Zehavit Gross
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: Hebrew

Keywords: identity formation , religious identity , ethnic identity , masculine identity
Areas of Research: Religion


The theoretical foundation of the development of identity was laid down by Erik Erikson (Erikson, 1968) and developed by James Marcia, by means of empirical research into the identity status model (Marcia, 1966). Although Marcia's model is the most useful model in identity formation research it has been subject to criticism with the claim that it only partially reflects Erikson's theoretical work since this model ignores the social component of identity as described in Erikson's theory (Côté & Levine, 1988) and the developmental component of the identity formation process (Schwartz, 2005). In light of the criticism, the aim of the present study was to examine identity formation process of the individual in three specific identity domains: religious identity, ethnic identity and masculine identity within a unique socio-cultural context: the Religious Pre-Army Preparatory Courses in Israel, with the intention of focusing on four research questions: 1. How does the identity formation process of the individual take place? 2. What are the differences between the identity domains in the identity formation process? 3. What are the differences between individuals regarding the identity formation process? 4. What interactions are there between identity domains: religious, ethnic and masculine identities and how are they connected to each other from the participants' viewpoint? The research questions were examined in a population of students in three Religious Pre-Army Preparatory Courses, located in various parts of the country, during 2009- 2011, using two research methodologies: 1. A qualitative study, based on 158 interviews held with 20 participants over the course of a year and a half, 42 observations in the same period, and an analysis of written material. 2. A quantitative study, based on questionnaires about religious identity (Bell, 2009) and ethnic identity (Roberts et al., 1999) which were filled in by the students in the three Religious Pre-Army Preparatory Courses from two classes, the class of 2010 and the class of 2011, at the beginning and end of the school year (N=135). The discussion chapter deals with a comparison between the results of the two studies on the one hand, and the existing literature on the other, and raises two central issues: 1. Components of identity: There are three identity components common to the three domains – the theoretical, practical and collective components. These components are not fully reflected in the existing research measures. 2. Four styles of exploration were found in the research field, two of them documented in the literature: in-breadth exploration and in-depth exploration, and two styles without support in the existing literature: experiential exploration and directed exploration. This result provides and exemplifies a number of possible answers to the theoretical dilemma that arose as a result of documentation of a "regression" from high statuses towards low statuses. The discussion chapter also includes reference to the implications for the literature that deals with the content of the three domains, for additional issues that are not directly related to the research questions and for the field of education, as well as recommendations for future research.