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Identity development in adolescents with mental problems

Emanuel Jung1*, Oliver Pick1, Susanne Schlüter-Müller23, Klaus Schmeck1 and Kirstin Goth1

Author Affiliations

1 Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital, Psychiatric University Hospitals, Basel, Switzerland

2 Practice for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Frankfurt, Germany

3 University of Applied Sciences FHNW, Basel, Switzerland

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Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health 2013, 7:26  doi:10.1186/1753-2000-7-26

Published: 31 July 2013



In the revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), “Identity” is an essential diagnostic criterion for personality disorders (self-related personality functioning) in the alternative approach to the diagnosis of personality disorders in Section III of DSM-5. Integrating a broad range of established identity concepts, AIDA (Assessment of Identity Development in Adolescence) is a new questionnaire to assess pathology-related identity development in healthy and disturbed adolescents aged 12 to 18 years. Aim of the present study is to investigate differences in identity development between adolescents with different psychiatric diagnoses.


Participants were 86 adolescent psychiatric in- and outpatients aged 12 to 18 years. The test set includes the questionnaire AIDA and two semi-structured psychiatric interviews (SCID-II, K-DIPS). The patients were assigned to three diagnostic groups (personality disorders, internalizing disorders, externalizing disorders). Differences were analyzed by multivariate analysis of variance MANOVA.


In line with our hypotheses, patients with personality disorders showed the highest scores in all AIDA scales with T>70. Patients with externalizing disorders showed scores in an average range compared to population norms, while patients with internalizing disorders lay in between with scores around T=60. The AIDA total score was highly significant between the groups with a remarkable effect size of f= 0.44.


Impairment of identity development differs between adolescent patients with different forms of mental disorders. The AIDA questionnaire is able to discriminate between these groups. This may help to improve assessment and treatment of adolescents with severe psychiatric problems.

Identity; Assessment; Personality disorder; Adolescence; Psychopathology