Psychosocial Well-Being and a Multicultural Personality Disposition

Article excerpt

Current research in counseling and personality has not sufficiently examined the relationship between multicultural attitudes and psychosocial well-being. Gelso and Fassinger (1992) and Ponterotto, Costa, and Werner-Lin (2002) have underscored the importance of examining the healthy personality and its relationship to culture and adaptive behavior. Miville et al. (1999) affirmed the need for more research on the development of the healthy, or effective, self in their study examining attitudes of acceptance and understanding of human similarities and differences.

Throughout the last decade, several researchers have contributed to the development of a construct called multicultural personality. Ramirez (1991) was the first to document this term, which he used to describe people who were able to negotiate multiple cultures. This construct is related to biculturalism, which is a term that has been used to describe people who are able to integrate aspects of two different cultures into their personal identity (LaFromboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993). However, the idea of a multicultural personality implies more of an ability to function with sensitivity and competence in a variety of cultural settings. Ramirez (1999) also emphasized that a person with a multicultural personality would have strong leadership skills, fight for social justice, and actively seek out opportunities to gain exposure to diverse cultures.

Other theorists conceived of constructs similar to a multicultural personality but focused their research on distinctly different areas. For instance, Van Der Zee and Van Oudenhoven (2000, 2001) discussed the role of a multicultural personality in predicting the effectiveness of international business managers. In education, researchers suggested that teachers must work to become multicultural persons in order to be more effective in culturally diverse classrooms and that schools should actively encourage children to become better multicultural citizens (Banks, 2001; Nieto, 2000). Ponterotto, Utsey, and Pedersen (2006) referred to a multicultural personality as "a positive indicator of enhanced quality of life for Americans living in an increasingly culturally diverse society" (p. 129). Ponterotto, Mendelsohn, and Belizaire (2003) defined someone with a multicultural personality as a person who

   embraces diversity in her/his personal life; makes active attempts
   to learn about other cultures and interact with culturally
   different people (e.g., friends, colleagues); effectively negotiates
   and copes within multiple cultural contexts; possesses the
   ability to live and work effectively among different groups and
   types of people; understands the biases inherent in his/her own
   worldview and actively learns about alternate worldviews; and
   is a social activist, empowered to speak out against all forms
   of social injustice (e.g., racism, homophobia, sexism, ageism,
   domestic violence, religious stereotyping). (p. 204)

Ponterotto et al. (2006) identified a number of theoretical components underlying the multicultural personality construct, one of which is universal-diverse orientation. Universal-diverse orientation encompasses a range of qualities, including multicultural self-awareness (i.e., knowledge of one's racial/ethnic identity and prejudices) and positive attitudes toward racial diversity and women's equality. Miville et al. (1999) offered the following definition of universal-diverse orientation:

   Universal-diverse orientation is thus defined as an attitude
   toward all other persons that is inclusive yet differentiating
   in that similarities and differences are both recognized and
   accepted; the shared experience of being human results in a sense
   of connectedness with people and is associated with a plurality
   or diversity of interactions with others. (p. 292)

This definition reflects the interrelation of cognitive, behavioral, and affective components of universal-diverse orientation. …