Parental Attachment, Family Communalism, and Racial Identity among African American College Students

By Brown, Carrie L.; Love, Keisha M. et al. | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, April 2013 | Go to article overview

Parental Attachment, Family Communalism, and Racial Identity among African American College Students


Brown, Carrie L., Love, Keisha M., Tyler, Kenneth M., Garriot, Patton O., Thomas, Deneia, Roan-Belle, Clarissa, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


Parental attachment and familial communalism were examined as contributors to the racial identity of 165 African American college students. Students with secure attachments and high reports of communalism were in the later stage of their racial identity development, whereas students with insecure attachments and lacking communalism were in the earlier stages of their racial identity development.

Keywords: African American college students, racial identity, attachment, family, communalism

El apego parental y el comunalismo familiar se examinaron como contribuyentes a la identidad racial de 165 estudiantes universitarios afroamericanos. Los estudiantes con apegos seguros y alto indice de comunalismo se encontraban en la etapa avanzada del desarrollo de su identidad racial, mientras que los estudiantes con apegos inseguros y falta de comunalismo se encontraban en las etapas tempranas del desarrollo de su identidad racial.

Palabras Clave: estudiantes universitarios afroamericanos, identidad racial, apego, familia, comunalismo

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Since the civil rights era, racial identity models have provided a basis for understanding and interpreting the development of individuals attitudes and behaviors toward their racial group (e.g., Cross, 1978; Helms, 1995; Neville, Heppner, & Wang, 1997). Racial identity models serve as a conceptual framework to help professionals and practitioners become more cognizant and sensitive to race-specific issues that influence attitudes and behaviors of members of racial minority groups (Parham & Helms, 1985; Sue & Sue, 2003). For instance, various racial identity statuses--and the attitudes and corresponding activities found in each--have been shown to influence and predict African American college students' self-esteem (Hargrow, 2001; Helms, 1993, 1995; Martinez & Dukes, 1997).

Black racial identity models have been most recently updated by scholars such as Cokley (2001) and Sellers, Rowley, Chavous, Shelton, and Smith (1997). In particular, these scholars have enumerated several inconsistencies in the results of racial identity research using William Cross's (1971, 1991) Black Racial Identity Development Model, which traditionally had been one of the most widely cited models in this area of research. As Sellers et al. (1997) observed, for example, some studies have stated that having a strong sense of racial identity can be associated with negative outcomes (e.g., the stigmas associated with being Black) as well as positive outcomes (e.g., helping to ward off the impact of racism). Racial identity has also been linked to myriad aspects (e.g., self-esteem, academic performance, counselor preference) of African Americans' psychological well-being and lives. Nonetheless, despite the consensus that racial identity has an impact, it is often unclear what that impact is. Additionally, racial identity models such as Cross's model have been criticized for viewing racial identity development as linear, for generalizing the stages on a broad range of individuals, and for having a lack of knowledge and awareness of other worldviews (e.g., Afrocentricity) that exist as alternatives to idealizing Whiteness (Constantine, Richardson, Benjamin, & Wilson, 1998).

Sellers, Smith, Shelton, Rowley, and Chavous (1998) developed the Multidimensional Model of Racial Identity (MMRI) as a way to address these concerns among racial identity research. The MMRI was designed to measure the extent to which one's race is central to one's sense of self. The MMRI looks at four areas of how people define themselves as racial beings as well as their membership in a particular racial group. These four areas are salience (how important one's race is), centrality (stability and dominance of one's race), ideology (one's beliefs, opinions, and attitudes about one's race), and regard (how one sees and feels about one's self). Sellers et al. (1997) used this framework to create the Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity to measure the three dimensions of centrality, ideology, and regard. …

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