What is foreclosure in psychology?

What is foreclosure in psychology?


Foreclosure in psychology refers to a concept introduced by the renowned psychologist, Erik Erikson. It is a term used to describe a specific identity status in the process of identity development. Foreclosure occurs when an individual adopts an identity without exploring different options or considering alternative possibilities. This article will delve deeper into the concept of foreclosure in psychology, exploring its characteristics, causes, and potential consequences.

Characteristics of Foreclosure

Foreclosure is characterized by a premature commitment to an identity, often influenced by external factors such as family, culture, or societal expectations. Individuals in a state of foreclosure tend to adopt the values, beliefs, and goals of others without critically examining them. They may conform to the expectations placed upon them, rather than exploring their own interests and aspirations.

Moreover, individuals in foreclosure may exhibit a rigid adherence to their chosen identity, resisting any challenges or opportunities for growth. They may avoid exploring alternative paths or considering different perspectives, leading to a limited sense of self and potential missed opportunities for personal development.

Causes of Foreclosure

Several factors can contribute to the development of foreclosure in individuals. One significant factor is the influence of authoritative figures, such as parents or mentors, who may impose their own values and beliefs on the individual. This can limit the exploration of different identities and discourage independent thinking.

Cultural and societal expectations can also play a role in foreclosure. Societies that emphasize conformity and discourage individuality may inadvertently promote foreclosure by pressuring individuals to adopt predefined roles and identities without question. Additionally, fear of uncertainty or a desire for stability and security may lead individuals to choose foreclosure as a way to avoid the complexities and challenges of identity exploration.

Consequences of Foreclosure

While foreclosure may provide a sense of stability and security in the short term, it can have long-term consequences on an individual’s psychological well-being and personal growth. By prematurely committing to an identity, individuals may miss out on opportunities for self-discovery and the development of a more authentic sense of self.

Foreclosure can also lead to difficulties in forming intimate relationships. By adopting an identity without exploring alternative options, individuals may struggle to understand their own needs, desires, and values, making it challenging to establish meaningful connections with others.

Furthermore, foreclosure can limit an individual’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances and navigate life’s challenges. Without the flexibility and openness that comes from exploring different identities, individuals may find it difficult to cope with unexpected situations or pursue new goals and aspirations.


Foreclosure in psychology is a concept that describes a specific identity status characterized by a premature commitment to an identity without exploration. It is influenced by external factors, such as authoritative figures and societal expectations, and can have significant consequences on an individual’s personal growth and psychological well-being. Recognizing the potential for foreclosure and encouraging open exploration of identities is crucial for fostering healthy identity development.


– Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. W. W. Norton & Company.
– Kroger, J. (2007). Identity development: Adolescence through adulthood. Sage Publications.