The Identity Status of African Americans in Middle Adolescence: A Replication and Extension of Forbes and Ashton (1998)

Article excerpt

The study of ego identity status among adolescents and young adults, a statement of who you are and the things for which you stand, has a long history. Researchers have consistently reported that older adolescents appear to be more developmentally differentiated and autonomous than younger adolescents. Different rates of interpersonal development have also been reported among males and females. Females appear to reach stages of achieved interpersonal identity development faster than males. The developmental course of ego identity among adolescents of color, specifically African Americans, however, has not been as consistently clear.

An early study by Hauser (1972) reported that African Americans in middle adolescence were more likely to be represented in the foreclosed identity status (i.e., have accepted an identity created for them by someone else) than their white counterparts. That finding has been revisited by other researchers over the past ten years. Watson and Protinsky (1991) used a revised version of the Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status and obtained significantly different results. They reported that nearly 80% of the African American participants in their study had not yet made identity commitments in the ideological domain. Forbes and Ashton (1998) replicated the work of Watson and Protinsky and found that few of the African American middle adolescents were foreclosed.

Forbes and Ashton (1998) extended the Watson and Protinsky study by also examining the performance of African American students in the interpersonal domain. Overall, they found that few of the students were foreclosed. Rather, most of the students were in moratorium (i.e., actively seeking an identity), in both the interpersonal and ideological domains. The Forbes and Ashton sample consisted of 48 high school students (29 males and 19 females) in Florida.

The present research is designed to replicate and extend the Forbes and Ashton study. Specifically, students completed the revised version of the Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status (Reunion & Adams, 1986) to determine their ego identity statuses in the interpersonal and ideological domains. The percentage of students in each identity status (i.e., diffused, foreclosed, moratorium, or achieved) is examined to facilitate comparisons with the findings of Forbes and Ashton. In addition, parametric statistical tests are used to investigate possible differences between younger and older participants.

METHOD

Participants

Seventy-seven African American students participated in this study. They all attended a regular public high school in a large northeastern city. Participation was part of ongoing school activities in the area of personal growth and development. Forty-five percent of the participants were male (mean age = 16.4 years, SD = 1.05) and 55% were female (mean age = 16.1 years, SD = 1.3).

Instrument

The revised version of the Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status (EOMEIS-2), a Likert-type pencil-and-paper measure, contains 64 items scored on a 6-point scale. Identity is evaluated in the areas of occupation, religion, politics, friendship, dating and sex roles, philosophy, lifestyle, and recreation. Three scores are derived from the scale: ideological, interpersonal, and total identity. Bennion and Adams (1986) applied Marcia's (1966) four identity statuses (diffused, foreclosed, moratorium, and achieved) to the EOMEIS-2. The result is that profiles can be developed in two domains (i.e., ideological and interpersonal) for each of the four ego identity statuses. Bennion and Adams report that the internal consistency of EOMEIS-2 was established by means of Cronbach's alpha (scores of .67 to .77) and test-retest procedures (scores of .63 to .83). In regard to the content validity of the EOMEIS-2, they reported 94% agreement across 9 judges, compared to 96. …