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What are the 5 types of identity?

Identity is a complex concept that involves how we see and define ourselves. There are many different ways to categorize and think about identity. In this article, we will explore 5 key types or categories of identity: individual, relational, social, collective, and cultural identity.

Individual Identity

Individual identity refers to our own self-concept and how we see ourselves as individuals. This includes:

  • Personality – Our patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Beliefs and values
  • Goals and dreams
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Appearance and body image
  • Skills and abilities

Individual identity is shaped by many factors such as our genes, family, friends, experiences, culture, society, and major life events. It can change over time as we grow and have new experiences. However, there is typically a core sense of self that provides a steady thread or continuity in who we are.

Key Questions for Individual Identity

  • How would you describe your personality?
  • What are your most important values?
  • What are your skills and talents?
  • What are your goals and dreams in life?
  • How do you see and define yourself as an individual?

Relational Identity

Relational identity refers to the aspects of ourselves that develop in relation to significant others. This includes:

  • Family roles – Such as parent, child, sibling.
  • Friendships
  • Romantic relationships
  • Roles at school or work – Such as teacher, student, supervisor, team member.
  • Affiliations – Such as with social, political, or religious groups.
  • Reputation and how others see us.

Relational identity develops through interactions with others and explores questions like: Who am I in this relationship? How do I connect and relate to others?

Key Questions for Relational Identity

  • What are your most important family and friendship roles?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • How do you behave in romantic relationships?
  • What social or group affiliations are important to you?
  • How do you think others perceive you?

Social Identity

Social identity comes from the groups we belong to and the social categories we fit into. This includes:

  • Age cohort – Such as teen, young adult, middle-aged.
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Social class
  • Physical and mental abilities
  • Physical attributes – Such as height, weight, attractive/unattractive.
  • Health – Such as physical or mental illnesses.
  • Occupation
  • Religion
  • Political affiliation
  • Nationality
  • Place of residence

Social identity comes from categories and groups that we did not choose but were born into or ascribed to us by society. It shapes how we think society views us as well as the stereotypes, advantages, and disadvantages attached to our social groups.

Key Questions for Social Identity

  • What social categories do you belong to such as related to gender, race, social class, etc.?
  • What stereotypes and assumptions exist about your social groups?
  • How has your social identity shaped your opportunities and life experiences?
  • What social groups are most important to you?

Collective Identity

Collective identity refers to the part of our identity that comes from groups we intentionally join or affiliate with. This includes:

  • Political parties
  • Social movements – Such as civil rights or LGBTQ
  • Fan groups and hobbyists – Such as sports teams fans or Star Trek fans
  • Online communities
  • Musical and artistic groups
  • Professional organizations and alumni associations

Collective identities unite people around shared ideologies, interests, or characteristics. They can build a sense of solidarity, connection, and belonging.

Key Questions for Collective Identity

  • What groups, clubs, or organizations do you identify with?
  • What ideologies or causes are meaningful to you?
  • How do your collective identities provide a sense of belonging?
  • What values and beliefs do you share with collective groups you are a part of?

Cultural Identity

Cultural identity stems from the culture or cultures that we feel connected to and that shape our beliefs, values, behaviors, traditions, language, food, music art, literature, holidays, etc. Elements of cultural identity include:

  • Nationality
  • Ethnic background
  • Regional heritage – Such as Southern, Midwestern, etc.
  • Generational cohort – Such as Baby Boomer, Millennial, etc.
  • Subcultures – Such as hipsters, goths, gamers.
  • LGBTQ community
  • Disabilities community – Such as Deaf culture
  • Racial identity and experience – Such as Black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.
  • Indigenous heritage

Cultural identity provides a connection to traditions, heritage, values, practices, language, rituals, food, art and more. It can foster a sense of pride, belonging, and community.

Key Questions for Cultural Identity

  • What cultural backgrounds and ethnicities do you identify with?
  • How has your cultural identity shaped your worldview and life experiences?
  • What traditions, food, holidays, or cultural rituals feel meaningful to you?
  • What aspects of your cultural identity do you feel most connected to?


Identity is complex, multifaceted, and develops across our lifetime. The five types discussed in this article – individual, relational, social, collective, and cultural identity – intersect and combine to form our overall sense of self. Some aspects feel more core and stable, while others shift and adapt based on our context and experiences. Exploring and reflecting on the different facets of identity can bring greater self-awareness, growth, and connection to what is most meaningful in our lives.