Academic journal article Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development

Revising the White Racial Consciousness Development Scale

Academic journal article Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development

Revising the White Racial Consciousness Development Scale

Article excerpt

This article describes the revision of the White Racial Consciousness Development Scale (D. Claney & W. M. Parker, 1989). A multistage approach including item generation, item refinement and selection, and evaluation of score validity and reliability was used to test construction and validation. Implications for theory, practice, and future research are discussed.


Helms (1984) proposed a theory of White racial identity development based on the assumption that as White counselors gain a better understanding of their own racial identity attitudes, they will be more adept at understanding those of others. Although Helms's (1990) work has served as a catalyst for others to suggest alternative conceptualizations of White racial identity development (Ponterotto, 1988; Sabnani, Ponterotto, & Borodovsky, 1991; Sue & Sue, 1999), hers is considered to be the principal theory in the area, at least in part because of the availability of measures to assess it (Leach, Behrens, & LaFleur, 2002).

According to Helms's (1984, 1990, 1995) White racial identity theory, White people move from being naive about the differences between Blacks and Whites to learning to accept and appreciate the differences between races. Helms (1984) initially described five stages of White racial identity development: contact, disintegration, reintegration, pseudo-independence, and autonomy.

In Helms's (1995) revision, she changed the term stages to statuses. In each status, people are theorized to use different information-processing strategies or schemas to filter and interpret racial cues. Multiple statuses can coexist, and most people use several schemas to process information. The emergence of different statuses occurs in a particular sequence based on differentiations of the ego, with more mature statuses being more sophisticated than earlier statuses. The status that is used by a person in a given situation is determined by the dominance of the schema in the personality structure of the individual.

Although White racial identity models have been widely used and have intuitive appeal for educational, clinical, and research application, there are still problems in defining the underlying constructs of the model. Part of the challenge of refining the models of White racial identity involves creating reliable and valid scales to measure the constructs included in the theory.

Three major scales have been developed to assess White racial identity development: the White Racial Consciousness Development Scale (WRCDS; Claney & Parker, 1989); the White Racial Identity Attitude Scale (WRIAS; Helms & Carter, 1990); and the White Racial Identity Development Scale, developed by Corbett, Helms, and Reagan (1992), which measures the immersion/emersion status of White racial identity development. The White Racial Identity Development Scale has not been used in many published research studies (Leach et al., 2002). Another scale, the Oklahoma Racial Attitudes Scale (ORAS; Choney & Behrens, 1996), measures White racial consciousness according to Rowe, Bennett, and Atkinson's (1994) theory of White racial consciousness, developed in reaction to Helms's (1984, 1990) theories.

Rowe et al. (1994) defined White racial consciousness as one's awareness of being White and what that implies in relation to those who do not share White group membership. Although Rowe et al. maintained that their model is superior to Helms's (1990) model, Block and Carter (1996) questioned the validity of this claim. Block and Carter stated that "a rose by any other name is still a rose" (p. 327). Although the ORAS (a scale based on White racial consciousness theory) was designed to measure the White racial consciousness construct, the scale is not discussed in this article because it is not based on Helms's (1984, 1990, 1995) theory.

Claney and Parker (1989) were the first to develop a scale based on Helms's (1984) theory of White racial identity. …

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