Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Counseling the Fastest Growing Population in America: Those with Multiple Heritage Backgrounds

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Counseling the Fastest Growing Population in America: Those with Multiple Heritage Backgrounds

Article excerpt

The multiple heritage (i.e., multiracial, biracial) population has been identified by the US Census Bureau as the fastest growing population in the US. With this growth, there is also the diversity of those in multiple heritage families and with multiple heritage backgrounds. In this article, the authors describe the challenges faced by this population, the individual identity development process, and ways of helping individuals at different developmental levels along with their families. There is also an introduction to the new Competencies for Counseling the Multiracial Population (Kenney et al., 2015).


Since the beginning of the settlement of the territory that became known as the United States of America, there have been those individuals who were born of parents from two different ethnic/racial backgrounds (Henriksen & Paladino, 2009). At first, there were those individuals who had both European and Native American ancestry; with the growth of slavery we saw increases in the number of individuals with European and African ancestries, with the result being individuals with European, African, and Native American ancestries in diverse combinations. Today, the multiple heritage population (those with parents from two different racial and/or ethnic groups, often referred to as biracial or multiracial) is described as the fastest growing population in the United States (Florido, 2013). Florido also noted that there are now more than 7.5 million individuals who identify with more than one racial/ethnic background and that the multiple heritage population growth is more than four times that of any other group.

With the growth of the multiple heritage population comes the need for trained mental health professionals who have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide positive and effective counseling services. Pedrotti, Edwards, and Lopez (2008) pointed out that one of the most significant issues faced by the multiple heritage population involves the quest for an identity. Laszloffy (2015) has also noted that multiple heritage individuals and families continue to face issues with marginalization and societal rejection. Laszloffy also suggested that "the unique issues and struggles faced by multiple heritage individuals are often poorly understood by professionals, co-workers, friends, and extended family, making it difficult to successfully manage challenges whey they arise" (para. 1). The result means there is an ever-increasing need for trained professionals who can provide services that will lead to healthier functioning and an improved ability to cope with the challenges of being an individual or family with a multiple heritage background.

Through this paper our intention is to introduce and describe ways of helping the multiple heritage population through several developmental levels that also include working with families. We will also describe the Henriksen and Paladino (2009) multiple heritage identity development model that can be used to gain insight into the identity development challenges faced by many multiple heritage individuals.


Stonequist (1937) developed the first model of identity development for what was referred to as the biracial (Black/White) population; it was focused on a deficit model and titled The Marginal Man. Thus began the long road of research focused on identifying the true means by which multiple heritage individuals develop a racial/ethnic identity.

Following the initial model by Stonequist, there have been other models developed by Poston (1990) and Phoenix and Tizard (2002). It was not until the work of Maria Root (1990) that positive resolutions to the identity development process were added, changing the way in which the identity development process was viewed in relation to people with multiple heritage backgrounds. Following Root's ground-breaking work came the development of the first model of multiple heritage identity that focused on the identity development process beginning at birth and was focused on the strengths of the individual and family and not the deficits. …

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


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.