The Role of Ethnic Identity, Gender Roles, and Multicultural Training in College Counselors' Multicultural Counseling Competence: A Mediation Model

Article excerpt

Structural equation modeling with survey data from 313 college counselors revealed that multicultural training significantly mediated the impact of both ethnic identity and gender roles on multicultural counseling competence (MCC), explaining 24% of MCC variance. Results indicated that college counselors need to be aware of their own gender roles and ethnic identity to be culturally competent and highlighted the mediational role that training plays in achieving MCC.

Increasing diversity on college campuses combined with economic globalization challenge colleges and universities to prepare their students to thrive in a diverse society (Chao, 2008). There are mixed effects from increasing diversity on campuses. When colleges commit themselves to diversity, all students and educators potentially benefit (Nilsson et al., 2003). However, on the negative side, ethnic minority students often report feelings of social isolation, alienation and marginalization, stereotyping, invisibility, and discriminatory treatment by faculty and staff (Ponterotto, Gretchen, Utsey, Rieger, & Austin, 2002). Thus, providing multiculturally competent counseling is a necessary and indispensable prerequisite for college counselors (Smith, Constantine, Dunn, Dinehart, & Montoya, 2006).

Previous research has indicated that there is a strong link between multicultural counseling competence (MCC) and counselors' level of ethnic identity and gender role development. This means that college counselors actually bring their own ethnic identity and gender role development into counseling and that such dimensions directly affect competency. Multicultural training, an evidence-supported resource, is reported to significantly enhance effectiveness in multicultural counseling. In response to calls by Smith et al. (2006) for inquiry into the possible mediating effects of multicultural training on the documented ethnic identity/gender role-MCC relationship, the present study investigated how college counselors' MCC relates to their ethnic identity, gender roles, and multicultural training. The literature review includes research on (a) ethnic identity and MCC, (b) gender roles and MCC, and (c) multicultural training and MCC.

Ethnic Identity and MCC

Ethnic identity is an individual's sense of being a person definable in part by membership in an ethnic group. In this study, ethnic identity refers to the college counselors' subjective sense of ethnic group memberships that involve preference to belong to their own group with positive evaluation of ethnic knowledge and involvement in group activities.

Ethnic identity has been found to positively correlate with higher levels of MCC (Constantine, Warren, & Miville, 2005; Neville et al., 1996; Ottavi, Pope-Davis, & Dings, 1994; Vinson & Neimeyer, 2003). For example, Ottavi et al. (1994) found that White counselors who had more advanced racial identity development (defined as having reached the Pseudo-Independence stage of racial identity) had a stronger predictive relationship to self-reported MCC. On the basis of their results, they concluded that components of counseling training programs that promoted ethnic identity development would increase the counselors' level of MCC (Ottavi et al., 1994). More than a decade after Ottavi et al.'s study, Middleton et al. (2005), in a near replication of Ottavi et al.'s study, reported that the racial identity status of mental health practitioners was again positively related to their perceived MCC.

Previous studies of ethnic identity and MCC tend to take one of three typical analytic approaches: (a) ethnic identity is one of the predictor variables in a regression analysis in which MCC measurements are criterion variables (Ottavi et al., 1994), (b) ethnic identity is an independent variable (using racial identity categories rather than ethnic identity as a continuous measure) and MCC measurements are dependent variables in a MANOVA (Constantine et al. …