Chickering’s Theory of Identity Development

Brief Overview

Arthur Chickering’s Seven Vectors theorize the “tasks” that students must go through while developing their identity.

Printable Summary (PDF)

Previous cohorts of FSU students have developed these printable summaries and used them to prepare for test and papers.  We hope they’ll be of help to you too.

Stages, Levels, Phases, and Components of the Theory

Stages, Levels, Phases, and Components of the Theory:  The Seven Vectors

  • Developing Competence 
    • An individual develops within intellectual, physical and manual skills, and interpersonal competencies.
    • Intellectual Competence is characterized by ability to use reasoning and critical thinking skills
    • Physical and Manual Competence is characterized by involvement and attention to wellness, artistic, and athletic activities
    • Interpersonal Competence is characterized by the ability to communicate and work well with others


  • Managing Emotions 
    • An individual becomes competent in his or her ability to recognize and manage emotions
    • Incorporation of all emotions and an individual’s ability to reasonably manage his or her reactions to events
  • Moving Through Autonomy Toward Interdependence 
    • An individual develops ability to have an independent outlook on life but understand successful relationships are based on an interdependence
  • Developing Mature Interpersonal Relationships
    • An individual develops intercultural relations, appreciation for others, and tolerance for those around them
    • Reisser (1995) indicates this vector indicates one’s ability to accept others, respect differences, and appreciate commonalities
  • Establishing Identity
    • An individual processes through his or her identity to emerge with a healthy self-concept in all facets of identity
  • Developing Purpose
    • An individual has a strong outlook on professional life, makes meaning within his or her own interests, and establishes positive relationships with others
  • Developing Integrity
    • An individual is able to articulate and emulate his or her own values affirmed as an individual through three stages: humanizing values, personalizing values, and developing congruence
Application of Theory to Practice

This section is designed to provide student affairs professionals, staff, and faculty members with tips and tools to apply theory to practice.

In Cross and Fhagen-Smith’s Model, administrators encounter students as early as sector three. If not, definitely the encounter occurs in sector. The most important influence we can have in an individual’s journey to a healthy self-concept is providing them with the space to explore and find their own place. This is not limited to the Black Student Union, this filters into academics and courses offered as well as integrating faculty, staff and administrators who have a positive self-concept as a Black individual. Students are definitely willing to open up about their experiences when they think there is already a shared struggle or journey.

Annotations of Associated Literature

“Students who worked with advisors who encouraged reflection in goal setting and intentional planning and discussed with students their nonacademic life experiences were more likely to develop abilities and perspectives associated with self-authorship” (Evans et al., 190).

Original Citation

Chickering, A. W., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and Identity (2nd ed), Jossey- Bass, San Francisco.

Additional Resources

This page was written and created by Michelle Robinson. The webpage is maintained by Amanda Peerce and Jesse Ford.  For information on the page, please contact Amanda Peerce at or Jesse Ford at