Features of the Internal Position of an Adult in Modern Students of Early Adolescence



The article presents the results of an empirical study dealing with the features of the adult internal position as a motivational basis for self-determination in modern high school and college students. The study aims to analyze the adult internal position in adolescent students, which is seen as a confluence of the social need for autonomy and the cognitive need for professional education. The hypothesis was tested that the peculiarity of the studied psychological phenomenon is due to the fact that the external conditions of development (environmental factors and institutional requirements for growing up) outpace the formation of internal conditions that ensure the modern young people’s individual psychological readiness for self-determination. We tested the assumption that the institutional requirements for adulthood outpaced the modern young people’s individual psychological readiness for self-determination. Standardized scale methods were used to diagnose the level of professional identity (A. Azbel), the level of ambition and self-esteem (the Dembo-Rubinshtein scale modified by A. Prikhozhan), the level of subjective control (modified by A. Gretsov), as well as to study the emotional attitude towards learning (modified by A. Andreeva-A. Prikhozhan). The sample of the study is 191 people, high school and colleges students from Moscow and Orsk. Correlative, cluster and factor analysis of the data obtained confirmed the assumptions made about the structure of the adult internal position in the early youth and the features of its formation in post-industrial societies. It is shown that the formation of the professional identity of modern high school and college students is more consistent with the objective requirements of the social situation, rather than the level of personal maturity necessary for making informed decisions.

General Information

Keywords: adult internal position, normative crisis, age patterns of development, adolescence, early youth

Journal rubric: Developmental Psychology

Article type: scientific article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/pse.2023280205

Funding. The work was carried out within the framework of the State Assignment of the Federal State Budgetary Scientific Institution "PI RAO" No. 075-00646-21-01 dated 16.04.2021 for 2021-2023.

Received: 17.02.2022


For citation: Andreeva A.D., Begunova L.A., Lisichkina A.G. Features of the Internal Position of an Adult in Modern Students of Early Adolescence. Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 2023. Vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 58–69. DOI: 10.17759/pse.2023280205.

Full text


Today’s high school students as well asthe students of secondary vocational schools get ready to enterindependent adult life.It is assumed that the level of psychological maturity reached by this time allows them to make their first de­cisions regarding their own future.The criterion of the maturity, after the defini­tion by L.I.Bozhovich, is the emergence of an adult internal position — the most important new formation of middle ado­lescence which is associated with self-determination and accomplisheschild’s ontogenetic development [2].Nowadays the world of professions as well as the education system undergo rapid changes which makesself-determinationdifficult for young people.[1; 6; 18; 23].

Many researchers emphasize thatat the middle-adolescent age the orientation tothe future becomes the main focus of the personality and the problem of choosing a careerturns into the center of young peo­ple’s interests.That’s why psychologists consider professional and social self-de­termination as the most important new for­mation of middle adolescence.However, it should be preceded by the formation of the adultinternal position [21; 22].

The very concept of the internal posi­tion as a motivational formation was in­troduced by L.I.Bozhovich in 1951.She considered it as a characteristic of child’s psychological readiness to start school, i.e., to enter the system of its social and educational norms and requirements [2].The content of the “internal position” concept has been revised and refined by other researchers over several decades; now it’s not only limited to the education­al process but includesa wide range of situations associated with the adoption of a new social role [15; 17; 19].The phe­nomenon firstly described for children experiencing the seven-year-old crisis rightfully took its place among the symp­toms of personality crisis.The emer­gence of a new internal position indicates that a person has found a sphere for his/ her further development and is ready to enter a new system of social relations.The most important semantic aspect of the internal position, according toD.V.Lubovsky, is that it cannot be imposed from outside — it is a conscious choice made by an individual in accordance with his/her internal motives [9].

This study is aimed at studying the features of an adult internal position as a new formation of a development cri­sis experienced by young people aged 16—18.The adult internal position as a complex psychological formation implies that individual is mature enough to ac­cept the norms of the adult life, in other words, the social role of an adult member of society.Basing on the interpretation of the internal position developed in the sci­entific school of L.I.Bozhovich we define this new formationas a fusion of a social component associated with the desire and psychological readiness for inde­pendence, and the cognitive motivation aimed at obtaining a profession as a way of gaining independence.The adult inter­nal position is a motivational mechanism that helps high school students move to a new level of social relations requiring­autonomy and responsibility.

Child age-related developmental cri­sis is usually explained by a deepening gap between child’sincreased social, personal and cognitive capabilities and needs and the external conditions that re­main unchanged.Themain peculiarity of the “growing-up” crisis is determined by the civilizational processes characteristic of thepre-figurative society where rapid changes in all aspects of life outpace psychological development of children and teenagers and limit theirpotential to plan their own future.

We assume that the formation of the adult internal position in modern ado­lescent students is characterized by the inverse (as compared to the classicone) relation of internal (psychological) and external (social) conditions of develop­ment.Psychological maturity of young people, their readiness to take on new challengeslag behind such institutional “growing-up”parameters as transition from one educational stage to another and making decisions associated with self-determination.

Research methods

The survey is based on the cultural-historical theory by L.S.Vygotsky, the theory ofpersonality developmentby L.I. Bozhovich, the conception ofadoles­cents’ readiness for self-determination by I.V.Dubrovina.Thus, we continue and develop the ideas formulated in the clas­sic works by Russian psychologists.

In order to study the social compo­nent of the adult internal position we used standardized scale methods.

Formation of students’ professional identitystatuses was considered as the main indicator of their readiness for professional self-determination.In order to obtain empirical data, we used the method of studying profes­sional identity statuses by A.A.Azbel [5].It is a questionnaire designed to revealrespondents’positions regarding their future, the role of external factors affecting their decisions as well as the presence or absence of a crisis position on the issue.

The subjective control level (SCL), the balance of internality and externality was an indicator of young people’s ma­turity and readiness to take responsibility for their decisions and actions.We used The Subjective Control Levelquestion­naire adapted for high school students by A.G. Gretsov [5].

We also used Dembo—Rubinshtein’s method for assessing self-esteem and ambition level modified by A.M. Prik­hozhan [13].

The need for cognition was evalu­ated by A.D.Andreeva and A.M. Prik­hozhan’s method including such scales as cognitive activity, anxiety, anger and achievement motivation [13].

We analyzed the empirical data using the statistical package IBM SPSS Statis­tics 23.0.We conducted correlation, clus­ter (k-means method) and factor analy­ses in order to reveal general age-related characteristics of the phenomenon under study.We didn’t take into account gender and environmental differences because division into subgroups would have re­duced the sample size and the validity of the results.


The sample consisted of 10— 11 grade students of highschooland  1—2 year students of colleges in Mos­cow and Orsk (191 people in total).

We conducted a correlation analysis to reveal the relationship between such parameters as general internality, indi­vidual characteristics of attitude towards learning, self-esteem, ambition level, and types of professional identity.The data are presented in Table 1.

It is found out that indeterminate professional identity correlates nega­tively with general internality (r = -0.147, p = 0.046), cognitive activity (r = 0.218, p = 0.003), achievement motivation (r = -0.297, p = 0.001) and ambitionlevel (r = -0.198, p = 0.007).This indicates that students are not ready to make respon­sible decisions.

The moratorium on decision-making in the sphere of professional self-de­termination causes anxiety (r = 0.196, p = 0.008).This indicatesthat thesocial situation ofdevelopment for this group of students is quite tense.They know that self-determination is importantbut do not wantto make a choice.

Determinate professional identity pos­itively correlates with cognitive activity (r = 0.179, p = 0.015), general internality (r = 0.250, p = 0.001), achievement mo­tivation (r = 0.583, p = 0.0001).Negative correlations between determinate pro­fessional identity and anxiety (r = -0.258, p = 0.0001), anger (r = -0.154, p = 0.038) are revealed.This may be considered as a marker for successful development of the adult internal position.

The imposed professional identity cor­relates negatively with general internality (r = -0.198, p = 0.007) and positively with anger (r = 0.165, p = 0.026).Thismay be interpreted as a sign of conscious obedi­ence to the dictated educational route.

The analysis shows significant posi­tive and negative correlationsof the pa­rameters of the adult internal position.This confirms that we can analyze its structure as a fusion of social and cogni­tive needs.

In order to analyze the structure of theadultinternal position typical of mod­ern boys and girls, we conducted an ex­ploratory factor analysis.The factor anal­ysis of the correlation matrix by principal componentmethod with Varimax rotation showed that, basing on the Kaiser crite­

Correlations of general internality, attitudes towards learning (cognitive activity, achievement motivation, anxiety, anger), professional identity, self-esteem and ambitionlevel


General internality

Cognitive activity



Achievement motivation

general rate)


(general rate) Ambition level

Indeterminate professional identity
















 rion, we could identify 3 factors including 53.83% of the cumulative variance.

The appropriateness of factor analy­sis was confirmed by the Kaiser-Meyer- Olkintest (KMO = 0.781) as well asby Bartlett’s test ofsphericity (χ2 = 3707.62 and p <0.001).Factor loadings are shown in Table 2.

The data presented in Table 2 show dominant personal characteristics of modern middle-adolescent students.It has been found out that personality traits and motivations typical of adolescents have the highest loadings, whilepersonal features associated with readiness for professional self-determination are char­acterized withthe smallest significant rates.Some parameterscharacterized by low values (less than 0.4) are not con­sidered.

The next step of the analysis was to divide students into groups (clus­ters) basing on the type of profes­sional identity (imposed professional identity,indeterminate professional identity, moratorium, determinate pro­fessional identity).For clustering the k-means method was used.The data are presented in Table 3.

Cluster analysis makes it possible to reveal connections among the studied parameters and divide students into four typological groups depending on different levels of the adult internal positionforma­

Table 2. Factor loading matrix


Factor 1 (authority among peers

% of total variance 33.933)

Factor 2

(claim for recognition

% of total variance


Factor 3 (readiness for self-determination

% of total variance 8.472)

Self-esteem authority among peers



Self-esteem attractive appearance



Self-esteem easy-going



Self-esteem talented






Self-esteem clever



Achievement motivation




Level of ambition clever



Level of ambition self-confidence




Level of ambition talented



Level of ambition authority among peers



Level of ambition easy-going



Level of ambition attractive appearance









General internality




Cognitive activity




Determinate professional identity



Table 3. Mean values of social and cognitive components of the adult internal position in clusters

Indeterminateprofes sionalidentity

n = 18 (9, 2%)


n = 49 (25, 8%)

Determinate professional identity

n = 105 (55%)

Imposed professional identity

n = 19 (10%)











Determinate professional identity





Imposed professional identity





General internality





Cognitive activity





Achievement motivation















General rate of self-esteem





General rate of ambition level






tion.Detailed description of these groups will be given in the discussion section.

Discussion of results

According to the results of factor analysis, the first factor (authority among peers) that combines self-esteem on such scales as “authority among peers”, “talented”, “self-confident”, “clever”, and achievement motivation in the educa­tional sphereis characterized by the highest loading.This structure of per­sonality sphere has traditionally been described as typical of adolescent stu­dents.L.I. Bozhovich, relying both on her own data and on the researches by contemporary foreign authors, notes: “...the leading motive for students’ behavior at school is the desire to find their place among their comrades” [2, p.242; 5].

The second factor — claim for rec­ognition — combinesambitions on such scales as “clever”, “self-confident”, “tal­ented”, “authority among peers”, “easy-going”, “attractive appearance”.The classicRussian researches on adoles­cent psychology have shown that thisis a sensitive period for self-esteem develop­ment [2; 11; 14].

Both factors indicate that status ex­pectations based both on real achieve­ments and ambitions in the sphere of interpersonal relationships are of high importance for our respondents.The data obtained demonstrate that this trend is characteristic of the majority of today’s high school and college students.

The third factor (readiness for self-determination) is the only one which includes orientation towards the adult future.It combines self-esteemon the “easy-going” scale, general internality, cognitive activity, anddeterminate pro­fessional identity.This factor has the lowestloading.It correlates negatively with anxiety and anger.Thisshows that young people consider themselves as “good”, “proper”, i.e., they suppose that they satisfy the requirements of the cur­rent social situation of development(the need to choose further educational route andprofessional self-determina­tion) [5; 12].

Thus, as regards personal maturity, today’smiddle adolescents are closer to the early adolescents of the Soviet ep­och.Soviet high school students dem­onstrated a sharp change of the internal position as well as the dominance of motivation associated with choosing a career path andgetting an education [2; 7; 8; 10; 16; 20, 21; 22].

According to the results of cluster analysis, the smallest group (9.2%) in­cludes students with an indeterminate professional identity, low mean values of general internality, cognitive activity, achievement motivation, self-esteem and ambitionlevel.This is the most passive group of students who do not consider their own future as well as present as a sphere of interest and personal effort.

The next group includes students (25.8%) who put a moratorium on profes­sional self-determination.This group is characterized by mean values of general internality, cognitive activity, achieve­ment motivation, self-esteem andambi­tionlevel.Anxiety and angermean values are low.These students understand that career choice is inevitable but they are not psychologicallyready to make it.We can assume that they areclose to accept­ing the adult internal position, “at a low start”.Thissort of delayed orientation to­wards the future explains the low rates of anxiety and anger.

The largest cluster (55%) includes students with a determinate professional identity, high mean values of cognitive activity and achievement motivation, low mean values of anxiety and anger, high mean values of general internal­ity, self-esteem and ambition level.This combination of parameters can be con­sidered as productive.It demonstrates that these students are ready to make an independent and responsible deci­sion regarding their future career, they are eager to learn and highly assess their ability to achieve their goals.The low level of negative emotionsconfirms that their orientation towards the future conforms with the main tasks of their age period.

Imposed professional identity, com­bined with high mean values of anxiety and anger, the lowest mean values of self-esteem, general internality and cognitive activity, but high mean values of ambi­tion level, is found in 10% of students.The immaturity of social and cognitive components of the adult internal position combined with the forced choice of the professional education route causes a negative attitude towardsstudying.High rates of the ambition level act as a kind of aprotective mechanism justifying the low level of personal responsibilityfor one’sown future.

The cluster analysis demonstrates that the adult internal position has formed in more than a half of middle-ad­olescent students.We can also assume that another 25% of the respondents will be ready to accept this position in the near future.Only one fifth of the par­ticipants experience difficulties forming an adult position.The result obtained conforms with the main age-related pat­tern of psychological development that implies orientation towards the future.It also confirms that the adult internal position can be interpreted as a fusion of social and cognitive motives aimed at obtaining a profession.This structure of professional identity can be considered as normative for middle-adolescent stu­dents experiencing self-determination crisis caused by the contradiction be­tween the institutional requirements for a school graduate and the subjective problems of career choice in a rapidly changing labor market.


The data obtained confirmthat the adult internal position in the middle ad­olescence should be seen as a fusion of two basic needs: thesocial one that is associated with gaining autonomy and taking responsibility for one’s own future and the cognitive one aimed at choosing a careeras a condition for gaining independence from the par­ents.

Comparing the results of cluster and factor analyses wecan conclude that the formation of professional identity, i.e.readiness for professional self-determi­nation, is ahead of the personal maturity in modern students aged 16—18.

We assume that this gap is associ­ated with the pressure of the institutional requirements for professional self-deter­mination.The age limits of these norms (graduation from high school, reaching the age of majority, age of conscription) haven’t changed for several decades.However, today they are imposed on young people who are mostlynot mature enough.In other words, the formation of professional identity in modern high school and college students is regulat­edmore by the objective requirements of the social situation than by the level of personal maturity necessary for making responsible decisions.


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Information About the Authors

Alla D. Andreeva, PhD in Psychology, Senior Researcher, Head of the Laboratory of the Scientific Foundations of Applied Child Psychology, Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1253-8903, e-mail: alladamirovna@yandex.ru

Lyudmila A. Begunova, PhD in Law, Leading Researcher of the Laboratory of the Scientific Foundations of Applied Child Psychology, Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9704-7096, e-mail: lab6510@list.ru

Alena G. Lisichkina, Researcher of the Laboratory of the Scientific Foundations of Applied Child Psychology, Federal Scientific Center of Psychological and Multidisciplinary Research , Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5411-2396, e-mail: al1975@spartak.ru



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