formation has been found to relate to psychosocial and disease-specific functioning in chronically ill adolescents. Therefore, examining antecedent factors of identity
formation in this population is needed. The main goal of the present longitudinal
study was to examine how peer relationship quality influenced identity
formation in adolescents with congenital
heart disease (CHD).
Adolescents with CHD were selected from the database of pediatric and congenital
cardiology of the University Hospitals Leuven. A total of 429 adolescents (14–18 years) with CHD participated at time 1; 401 were matched on gender and age with community controls recruited at secondary schools. Adolescents completed questionnaires on identity
and peer relationship quality. Nine months later, at time 2, 382 patients again completed these questionnaires.
Adolescents with CHD were generally found to be as competent as controls in addressing the task of identity
formation. Moreover, the importance of peer relationships for identity
formation was demonstrated. Supportive peer relationships positively influenced the process of identifying with the identity
commitments made. Furthermore, such relationships protected adolescents from getting stuck in the exploration process. Finally, reciprocal pathways were uncovered; a maladaptive exploration process was also found to negatively affect peer relationships.
The present study found peer relationship quality to be an important antecedent factor of identity
formation in adolescents with CHD. Future research should investigate how changes in peer relationships and identity
relate to well-being in these patients.