Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Impact of the Family Environment on the Ethnic Identity Development of Multiethnic College Students

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Impact of the Family Environment on the Ethnic Identity Development of Multiethnic College Students

Article excerpt

College is a critical period developmentally because students are actively exploring their identities and attempting to define themselves (Chickering & Reisser, 1993). Within the entire identity structure, ethnic identity is considered to be a fundamental aspect that provides an individual with a sense of belonging and commitment to a particular ethnic group (Phinney & Alipuria, 1996). The literature indicates that developing a secure attachment to an ethnic group increases minority college students' feelings of self-esteem and heightens their self-awareness while lowering their feelings of anxiety and inferiority (Kerwin, Ponterotto, Jackson, & Harris, 1993; Phinney & Alipuria, 1996; Taylor & Howard-Hamilton, 1995).

Several studies have revealed that a strong ethnic identity protects minority students' self-esteem and allows them to feel more integrated with the college environment (Murguia, Padilla, & Pavel, 1991; Taylor & Howard-Hamilton, 1995; Wilson & Constantine, 1999). For example, Wilson and Constantine studied 94 African American college students to determine whether the students' ethnic identity was related to their self-concept. The researchers found that African American college students with a strong ethnic identity had significantly higher self-esteem than African American college students without a strong ethnic identity.

An understanding of ethnic identity development and how the environment influences change in ethnic identity provides a framework for college counselors to work effectively with students from diverse backgrounds. Learning about ethnic identity is particularly important for college counselors who work with individuals struggling to feel accepted in a society in which their culture is not the mainstream one (Reynolds, 1999). According to Reynolds, "understanding ethnic identity theories as part of human development allows counselors to address and understand the cultural context of students of color. Counselors must also be able to apply their understanding of these concepts to themselves" (p. 220). By understanding an individual's developmental level, counselors can be proactive rather than reactive to the various dilemmas that emerge in life. This knowledge results in counselors developing skills that are necessary for recognizing clients' developmental struggles and for helping clients proceed in a positive and successful manner. This understanding also allows counselors to identify their own issues as they work with individuals from diverse backgrounds.

The problem is that the ethnic identity literature tends to focus on the experiences of monoethnic college students, thus ignoring the unique needs of multiethnic college students. This is particularly critical because the number of multiethnic individuals in the United States is growing. The U.S. Census Bureau (n.d.) reported that 2.4% of the U.S. population (6.8 million people) responded to the 2000 census by checking more than one box designating race. Furthermore, Renn (2000) reported that multiethnic students consisted of 1% to 2% of the college population; this figure will likely rise in the next few years. Phinney and Alipuria (1996) stated that multiethnic college students may be more at risk for experiencing problems adjusting to the college environment than monoethnic students because often multiethnic individuals perceive college campuses as unwelcoming and believe that most people there are unaware of the experiences of multiethnic students. This population lacks a social network of individuals from the same ethnic background, and even if there are students who share a similar background, they are difficult to identify because there is a lack of college programs geared toward students from multiple ethnic backgrounds. Therefore, it is particularly important for college counselors to have the tools necessary to address the needs of this population. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.