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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2020

4 - Identity


This chapter provides an outline of identity theory as it has developed out of its structural symbolic interaction origins. Identities are sets of meanings that define who we are in terms of the roles we have, the groups or social categories to which we belong, or the unique characteristics that make us different from others. The chapter reviews the origins of identity theory, including the characteristics, content, and bases of identities; in addition, it discusses how identities operate, change, and protect themselves as well as how they provide us with self-esteem. It concludes with a discussion of how identities provide a link between individuals and their society.

Identity, identity change, identity theory, self, self-esteem

Peter Burke is a winner of the American Sociological association’s Cooley-Mead Award for Career Contributions to Social Psychology. He is a Professor of the Graduate Division of the University of California, Riverside, Distinguished Professor (Emeritus) in the Department of Sociology, and a Fellow of both the AAAS and the APS.