Multiethnic Children, Youth, and Families: Emerging Challenges to the Behavioral Sciences and Public Policy

By McCubbin, Hamilton I.; McCubbin, Laurie "Lali" D. et al. | Family Relations, February 2013 | Go to article overview

Multiethnic Children, Youth, and Families: Emerging Challenges to the Behavioral Sciences and Public Policy


McCubbin, Hamilton I., McCubbin, Laurie "Lali" D., Samuels, Gina, Zhang, Wei, Sievers, Jason, Family Relations


Key Words: census, children, families, multietknicity, socialization, youth ethnic identity.

The nation's minority population is now over 100 million, so that about one in three U.S. residents is a person of color. in the period from 1980 to 2000, the European American population in the United States grew in size by 8%. In this same time period, the African American population increased by 30%, the Latino/Latina populations by 143%, and the American Indian/Alaskan Native populations by 46%. In striking contrast, in this time period the Asian American population in the United States increased by 190%. This transformation of the U.S. population configuration was facilitated by an increase in interracial marriages, resulting in a substantial increase in persons with multiethnic ancestries. The diversity within ethnic groups as reflected in the 2000 U.S. Census was fostered by a change in policy allowing the Census to record the multiethnic nature of the U.S. population.

This special Issue of Family Relations, with its 18 articles, acknowledges the emerging and distinct importance of understanding children, youth, and families of multiethnic ancestries. As a framework for understanding this special issue, we believe it is important to place multiethnicity in a historical and social context to foster an appreciation of the salience of this social change within the U.S. population, if not in the world. In 1989, the United States' adoption of what is known as "the hypodescent rule" suppressed the identification of multiethnic individuals and children in particular by requiring children to be classified as belonging to the race of the non- White parent. Interracial marriage between Whites and Blacks was deemed illegal in most states through the 20th century. California and western U.S. laws prohibited White-Asian American marriages until the 1950s. Since the 1967 Supreme Court decision, which ruled that antimiscegenation laws were unconstitutional, there has been a predictable increase in or reporting of the number of interracial couples and mixed-race children. The increase over the past 30 years has been dramatic when we consider the proportions of children living in families with interracial couples. The proportion of children living in interracial families increased from 1 .5% in 1970 to 2.4% in 1980, 3.6% in 1990, and 6.4% in 2000. In the state of Hawaii, the proportion of children living in multiethnic families grew to over 31% in 2000. In comparison to the 6.4% nationally, one in three children is being socialized in multiethnic family environments in the state of Hawaii (Lee, 2010).

This collection of original work on multiethnic children, youth, and families begins with the Census Bureau report on race data collected in the 2000 Census and the 2010 Census. Jones and Bullock provide the two decennial censuses on the distributions of people reporting multiple races in response to the census. In identifying the concentrations of multiethnic individuals and families at the national level and with geographic comparisons, the spotlight is placed on the changing and complex racial and ethnic diversity in the United States. Trask addresses the growing number of multiethnic immigrant and transnational families in the United States and abroad. The continuity in and dynamic relationships that emerge as a result of immigrations and transnational migrations increases our demand for more knowledge about the individual culture and history of the procreated multiethnic family units.

Levchenko and Solheim begin the section of articles on how multiethnic families are formed by examining international marriages between Eastern European-born women and U.S. -born men. Spouses in Eastern European-U.S. couples were found to differ significantly by age, income, education, and number of previous marriages. In addition to interracial marriages, adoption of children of color is one of the most recognized contributors to multiethnic family formations. …

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