Experiences and Beliefs as Predictors of Ethnic Identity and Intergroup Relations. (Articles)

By Wright, Margaret O'Dougherty; Littleford, Linh Nguyen | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, January 2002 | Go to article overview

Experiences and Beliefs as Predictors of Ethnic Identity and Intergroup Relations. (Articles)


Wright, Margaret O'Dougherty, Littleford, Linh Nguyen, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


Factors affecting ethnic identity and other group orientation were assessed in 115 college students from 5 ethnic groups. Ethnic group self-identification, negative and positive interracial experiences, perceptions of racial bias, social support, just-world beliefs, and psychological distress were each associated with various components of ethnic identity and are discussed within a counseling perspective.

Los factores que afectan la identidad etnica y otras orientaciones hacia grupos fueron evaluados en 115 estudiantes colegiales de 5 grupos etnicos. La identificacion de grupo etnico propio, las experiencias interraciales negativas y positivas, las percepciones del prejuicio racial, apoyo social, creencias en un mundo justo, y la affliccion psicologica fueron asociadas con varios componentes de la identidad etnica y son discutidos dentro de la perspectiva de la consejeria.

During the twenty-first century, the United States will become increasingly heterogeneous with respect to the ethnic composition of its population. Census reports predicted that by the year 2050 the majority of the population will be persons of color (U.S. Bureau of Census, 1992). This prediction highlights the importance of understanding factors that promote ethnic pride across diverse groups and factors that promote positive interethnic group relationships. Current research on ethnic identification emphasizes the importance of considering multidimensional and changing factors that affect ethnic identity development (Frable, 1997). In our study, ethnic identity is considered a complex construct that consists of various components. We examined the impact of a variety of immediate life experiences, perceptions, and beliefs on these multiple components of ethnic identity in an ethnically diverse college sample.

Although it is clear that each ethnic group has its own history, traditions, values, and practices, Phinney and colleagues (Phinney, 1990, 1992; Phinney & Alipuria, 1990; Phinney, Chavira, & Tate, 1993) demonstrated that ethnic identity can be conceptualized as a general phenomenon that can be reliably measured in adolescents and young adults from diverse ethnic groups. In a scale developed for this purpose, Phinney (1992) identified four components of ethnic identity: self-identification, ethnic behaviors and practices, affirmation and belonging, and ethnic identity achievement.

Although its significance may differ for each individual, self-identification is the individual's self-categorization and is based on nationality, language spoken, skin color, culture, and other factors. To identify oneself as a member of a group may not be indicative of one's attitudes about the group or how much the group membership influences one's perceptions or life experiences. Ethnic behaviors and practices focus on how involved an individual is with ethnic social activities and cultural practices (e.g., music, food). The third component, affirmation and belonging to the ethnic group, focuses on the individual's feelings of pride and attachment to his or her group. Having high ethnic affirmation and belonging also suggests that one has positive feelings about one's ethnic membership. Ethnic identity achievement, or feelings of security about one's membership in the group, means that one has a clear sense of the importance of ethnic background. The individual has some certainty about how his or her life is affected by group membership and the role ethnicity plays in interactions with others. In addition to assessing the aforementioned components of ethnic identity, Phinney's (1992) measure also assesses an individual's interest and openness to interacting with members outside one's own ethnic group. Because Phinney's measure can be used with samples that are ethnically diverse and allows for exploring both ethnic identity and interethnic interaction, we selected it to use as the measure of ethnic identity in our study.

In general, prior studies have used ethnic identity as an all-encompassing term to refer to ethnic self-identification, ethnic behaviors, ethnic affirmation and belonging, and ethnic identity achievement. …

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