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This mixed-method study used a grounded theory approach to explore the meanings underlying the importance adolescents attach to their racial-ethnic identities. The sample consisted of 923 9th–12th grade students from Black, Latino, Asian, and Multiracial backgrounds. Thematic findings identified a broad range of explanations for adolescents’ racial-ethnic centrality, ranging from pride and cultural connection to ambivalence and colorblind attitudes. While racial-ethnic groups differed in reported levels of racial-ethnic centrality, few group differences were identified in participants’ thematic explanations, with the exception of racial-ethnic and gender differences for Positive Regard and Disengagement. These findings highlight the diversity of meanings adolescents attribute to their racial-ethnic centrality as well as the many commonalities among adolescents across gender and racial-ethnic groups.

Racial identity has been historically understood as relating to responses to racism and prejudice ( Helms, 2007 ), while ethnic identity has included a sense of belonging to a group connected by heritage, values, traditions, and often languages ( Phinney & Ong, 2007 ), although both terms are acknowledged as socially constructed ( Cross & Cross, 2007 ; Helms, 2007 ; Markus, 2008 ; Omi & Winant, 1986 ). Consistent with these definitions, Markus (2008) argues that race should be conceptualized as distinct from ethnicity due to historical and contemporary racial hegemony related to power and privilege. They assert that these processes are more complex for American ethnic minorities, particularly in adolescence, in part due to potentially stressful environments, which combine with phenomenological experiences of emergent identities to shape one’s self-concept. The importance of race and ethnicity to an individual’s identity, which is referred to as centrality , represents a relatively stable perception of the significance one attributes to one’s racial-ethnic background. Neville & colleagues (2001) suggest that colorblindness may have different meanings for ethnic minorities than for Whites, as such perspectives work against one’s own group interest for people of color. Cross and Madson (1997) theorize that girls and young women are more interdependent and concerned with being connected to others and maintaining relationships, while boys are more independent and focused on agentic action. Such gender differences may relate to differential patterns of parental cultural socialization which favor girls as being connected to home, community, and traditions, whereas boys are more attuned to messages of racial barriers and bias ( Bowman & Howard, 1985 ; Hughes, Hagelskamp, Way, & Foust, 2009 ; Thomas & Speight, 1999 ). This study adds to the body of research concerning adolescents’ racial-ethnic centrality and its multiple meanings across gender and diverse racial groups, including Multiracial participants. This paper focuses on the 948 non-White participants who responded to an item on racial-ethnic centrality, of which 24 were excluded due to missing data on key variables as well as the only Native American adolescent. Asian adolescents consisted of predominantly Chinese or Vietnamese origins, as well as Indian, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, or Pacific Islander ancestry. Administrative staff and school counselors provided assistance in disseminating study information letters and parent/guardian (passive) consent forms to students. Utilizing a grounded theory approach ( Glaser & Strauss, 1967 ), the two authors systematically analyzed the data in three nonlinear, recursive phases: open, axial, and selective coding. We independently sorted through 200 randomly selected responses from the entire dataset in order to develop open codes for the preliminary categories that emerged. During the entire coding process, we remained “blind” to the identifying characteristics of the respondents, namely their racial-ethnic background and sex, to guard against biases that might emerge from unconscious expectations based on group membership. This involved checking the agreement between the two independent coders and discussing how to reorganize the open codes, constantly comparing existing data to generate meaningful categories ( Charmaz, 2000 ). These findings are consistent with research identifying a stronger sense of ethnic identity among African Americans and Latinos, followed by Asians and multiethnic adolescents ( Pellebon, 2000 ). Thirteen percent of responses showed an Awareness of Inequities , evenly split between Stereotypes (assumptions about group membership) and Discrimination (identifying prejudicial verbal or physical behaviors). Other uncertain types of responses included, a male participant stating, “Usually I say I’m Filipino, but as few people have heard of Philippines, I tend to not care about it that much” and a Black/White male participant saying, “It is somewhat important to me because I represent what I am, and my people but I’m not all crazy about [it], I’m more focus[ed] on my life.” Constancy , an emerging concept in middle childhood studied previously by Aboud and Doyle (1993) , entails a defeated attitude of not being able to change (or escape from the consequences of) one’s racial and/or ethnic heritage. For instance, a Black/White/Native Multiracial female respondent stated, “Unfortunately my skin will always mark who I am so there is no hiding if people are inquiring.” These Constancy -coded responses had a quality of resignation in their tone: “I think it is important because your race is something that you could never change. In addition, the dual minority status of females of color may make them less likely than males to dismiss or downplay racial or ethnic identity. Open-ended responses also indicated high levels of Positive Regard for this sample, suggesting that these adolescents have generally positive perceptions of their racial-ethnic background, with minimal expression of shame and internalized racism, counter to prior conceptualizations of African Americans in social science (e.g., Fordham & Ogbu, 1986 ), but consistent with recent findings for Black racial identity ( Worrell, 2008 ). Thematic commonalities for Awareness of Inequities suggest that constructs related to discrimination and stereotyping, explored primarily with African American populations in racial identity studies, may be applicable to a wider range of racial-ethnic groups. While findings were mixed regarding gender differences in thematic categories, higher levels of Positive Regard for females than males may tie to theoretical work emphasizing a higher tendency for females to be socialized to cultivate and maintain relationships and kinship ties ( Cross & Madson, 1997 ), as opposed to asserting independence and autonomy for males. We also attempted to expand narrow definitions of race and ethnicity through our measurement and discussion, but recognize the limitations inherent in the five pan-ethnic plus Multiracial categories we used to evaluate group differences. Finally, higher racial-ethnic centrality for participants who provided open-ended responses also suggests that these categories better represent adolescents with greater engagement with racial and ethnic identity. For adolescents of color who feel that race-ethnicity is not important to their self-definition, future qualitative research might explore how race-ethnicity interacts with other components of their identities, such as religion and sexual orientation. Given the variation in racial and ethnic language used within participants’ explanations of centrality, future work might explore how adolescents define and utilize these terms in everyday contexts. Future research in racial-ethnic centrality should also include longitudinal studies that follow participants over the course of adolescence and early adulthood, which is a transitional period of identity development. Future work could devise a new measure of racial-ethnic centrality that would encompass broader issues pertaining to minorities of color, and assess its reliability with diverse communities in different regions of the country. Finally, the development of school-based campaigns for diversity awareness which are sensitive to a range of racial-ethnic engagement for adolescents of color will be critical in this increasingly multicultural society. Nigrescence theory and measurement: Introducing the Cross Racial Identity Scale (CRIS) In: Ponterotto JG, Casas JM, Suzuki LA, Alexander CM, editors. [ Google Scholar ] Fuligni AJ, Witkow M, Garcia C. Ethnic identity and the academic adjustment of adolescents from Mexican, Chinese, and European backgrounds. [ Google Scholar ] Neville HA, Coleman MN, Falconer JW, Holmes D. Color-blind racial ideology and psychological false consciousness among African Americans. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ] Spencer MB, Dupree D, Hartmann T. A Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory (PVEST): A self-organization perspective in context. [ Google Scholar ] Tracy AJ, Erkut S, Porche MV, Kim J, Charmaraman L, Grossman JM, Ceder I, Vázquez García H. Measurement uncertainty in racial and ethnic identification among adolescents of mixed-ancestry: A latent variable approach.

What are the advantages of ethnic groups?

In turn, they say, race discrimination leads to poorer mental health, high blood pressure, increased smoking, and lower self-esteem. Ethnic diversity is beneficial , they argue, because it is associated with less racism and discrimination, more social cohesion, and stronger social support networks.

What is a positive ethnic identity?

When a person feels good about one’s self and one’s ethnic group (i.e., Guatemalan, African-American, Palestinian-American), he or she has a positive ethnic identity.

The more positively minority youth feel about their ethnicity or race, the fewer symptoms of depression and emotional and behavior problems they have. That’s the conclusion of a new meta-analysis summarizing 46 existing studies.

The researchers also found that young people who had positive feelings about their racial or ethnic identity had better social interactions and self-esteem, did well in school, and had fewer problems with drugs or alcohol. “Our findings show that the positive associations between ethnic-racial affect and key outcomes function similarly across groups of children differing in age, gender, and particular ethnic-racial categories,” adds Rivas-Drake. Deborah Rivas-Drake, Eleanor K. Seaton, Carol Markstrom, Stephen Quintana, Moin Syed, Richard M. Lee, Seth J. Schwartz, Adriana J. Umaña-Taylor, Sabine French, Tiffany Yip.

The more positively minority youth feel about their ethnicity or race, the fewer symptoms of depression and emotional and behavior problems they have. That’s the conclusion of a new meta-analysis summarizing 46 existing studies.

The researchers also found that young people who had positive feelings about their racial or ethnic identity had better social interactions and self-esteem, did well in school, and had fewer problems with drugs or alcohol. “Our findings show that the positive associations between ethnic-racial affect and key outcomes function similarly across groups of children differing in age, gender, and particular ethnic-racial categories,” adds Rivas-Drake.

Importance of race-ethnicity: An exploration of Asian, Black, Latino, and Multiracial adolescent identity

Abstract

This mixed-method study used a grounded theory approach to explore the meanings underlying the importance adolescents attach to their racial-ethnic identities. The sample consisted of 923 9Racial and ethnic identity, commonly defined as the significance and meaning of race and ethnicity to one’s self-concept (Phinney, 1996; Sellers, Smith, Shelton, Rowley, & Chavous, 1998), represent crucial components of adolescent development and exploration among youth of color (Cross & Cross, 2007). As with most racial identity constructs, research on the importance of race and ethnicity was initiated with adult African American populations (e.g., Cross, 1995; Cross, Parham, & Helms, 1991; Sellers et al., 1998) and has provided critical foundations for the study of racial and ethnic identity. A growing body of work investigates how these constructs apply to diverse groups of adolescents (e.g., Charmaraman & Grossman, 2008; Herman, 2004; Martinez & Dukes, 1997; Pellebon, 2000; Romero & Roberts, 1998), although Multiracial populations in particular remain understudied (Herman, 2004). The present mixed-method study explores racial-ethnic centrality among Black, Asian, Latino, and Multiracial adolescents. Participants were asked to rate their racial-ethnic centrality and to elaborate on the nuances behind these ratings, providing a qualitative window into the phenomenology of racial and ethnic centrality amongst a diverse group of respondents.

Use of “Racial” and “Ethnic” Identity

Racial identity has been historically understood as relating to responses to racism and prejudice (Helms, 2007), while ethnic identity has included a sense of belonging to a group connected by heritage, values, traditions, and often languages (Phinney & Ong, 2007), although both terms are acknowledged as socially constructed (Cross & Cross, 2007; Helms, 2007; Markus, 2008; Omi & Winant, 1986). Consistent with these definitions, Markus (2008) argues that race should be conceptualized as distinct from ethnicity due to historical and contemporary racial hegemony related to power and privilege. However, as Cokley (2005) notes, there is great variability in how these constructs are operationalized, with much complexity and definitional overlap (Trimble, Helms, & Root, 2003; Worrell & Gardner-Kitt, 2006). Cross and Cross further argued that regardless of these theoretical differentiations, racial and ethnic elements interact within individuals’ lived experiences and should not be artificially isolated from one another, as in the exploration of

Theoretical Perspectives

Several theories help to explain racial-ethnic importance and the phenomenological meanings which minority adolescents attribute to their racial-ethnic identity. Stryker’s (1987) identity theory proposes that individuals may attribute different levels of importance to various aspects of identity (e.g. race, gender). However, Sellers and Shelton (2003) point out that group identification alone cannot encompass identity and individuals who share a common level of group identification may attribute their engagement to different underlying reasons. Spencer and colleagues (1997) expanded on Bronfenbrenner’s (1989) ecological developmental framework by integrating the role of meaning making in shaping individuals’ self-concepts, resulting in the Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory (PVEST). They assert that these processes are more complex for American ethnic minorities, particularly in adolescence, in part due to potentially stressful environments, which combine with phenomenological experiences of emergent identities to shape one’s self-concept. These theories contend that the importance of group identification and the meanings behind these identifications together provide a fuller picture of the motivations that drive racial-ethnic identification than

Centrality of Racial-Ethnic Identity

The importance of race and ethnicity to an individual’s identity, which is referred to as

Meanings of Racial-Ethnic Identity

Researchers have suggested several explanations for individuals’ varying racial-ethnic centrality levels. Sellers and colleagues (1998) identify racial regard as central to how African American individuals assign meaning to their racial identity. This concept, arising from Luhtanen & Crocker’s (1992) construct of collective self-esteem, is a frequently identified component of racial-ethnic meaning making. It includes positive feelings and pride towards one’s racial-ethnic group, and has shown positive influence among diverse adolescents, including those of Mexican and Chinese descent (Kiang, Yip, Gonzales-Backen, Witkow, & Fuligni, 2006) and predicts self-esteem among African American, Latino and White adolescents (Phinney, Cantu, & Kurtz, 1997). Another orientation underlying racial-ethnic centrality is the belief in a colorblind society, wherein everyone is considered to be part of the “human” race. Notions of colorblindnesss are typically identified with Whites (e.g., Grossman & Charmaraman, 2009; Perry, 2002) and can entail denial of discrimination and racism (Bonilla-Silva, 2003). Some models of racial-ethnic identity have also alluded to colorblind ideologies in their developmental statuses, such as Cross and colleagues’ (1991) pre-encounter stage and Rockquemore and Brunsma’s (2002) transcendent identity. Neville & colleagues (2001) suggest that colorblindness may have different meanings for ethnic minorities than for Whites, as such perspectives work against one’s own group interest for people of color.

The Role of Gender

Cross and Madson (1997) theorize that girls and young women are more interdependent and concerned with being connected to others and maintaining relationships, while boys are more independent and focused on agentic action. Such gender differences may relate to differential patterns of parental cultural socialization which favor girls as being connected to home, community, and traditions, whereas boys are more attuned to messages of racial barriers and bias (Bowman & Howard, 1985; Hughes, Hagelskamp, Way, & Foust, 2009; Thomas & Speight, 1999). These distinctions may lead to greater expression of themes related to family culture and heritage for girls than for boys.These conceptualizations have found mixed support in empirical literature. According toMaywalt Scottham and colleagues (2008), few studies have considered gender variation in centrality or even in the broader area of racial-ethnic identity, and existing findings have shown inconsistent relationships, ranging from no significant gender differences (e.g. Rowley, Chavous, & Cooke, 2003) to finding gender differences only in limited situations or subscales (e.g. Maywalt Scottham et al., 2008; Munford, 1994). In the area of centrality, one of few studies addressing gender found direct relationships between centrality and academic achievement only for boys, while moderating roles for centrality also differed across gender (Chavous et al., 2008). Within the broader area of ethnic identity, while adolescent girls have been reported to have stronger ethnic identity than boys (Romero & Roberts, 1998), another study showed similar results only among Black and Asian adolescents, with no gender differences for Hispanic or mixed-race adolescents (Martinez and Dukes, 1997). Plummer (1995) also found that African American males endorsed more “raceless” or “pre-encounter” attitudes than females. These findings suggest that further exploration is needed regarding intersections of gender and racial-ethnic identity.

Objectives of Present Study

This study adds to the body of research concerning adolescents’ racial-ethnic centrality and its multiple meanings across gender and diverse racial groups, including Multiracial participants. We asked participants to rate the importance of race-ethnicity in their lives and to comment on the subjective meanings behind their ratings, which we analyzed for thematic categories. Moving beyond pre-determined, researcher-defined categories for racial-ethnic understandings, our phenomenological stance allowed for participants’ meanings to emerge. Given this paper’s focus on adolescents of color, participants who identified as solely White/non-Hispanic or of mixed European backgrounds were excluded (n = 781).This study explored the following research questions: (a) Are there racial-ethnic and gender differences in levels of reported racial-ethnic centrality? (b) What themes do adolescents of color offer regarding the importance of their racial-ethnic identities? (c) Are there similarities or differences in thematic meanings across gender and racial-ethnic groups?

Method

Participants

This sub-sample was part of a larger research study on adolescent racial and ethnic identity among monoracial and multi-racial youth (Tracy et al., in press). A total of 1793 adolescents in grades 9 through 12 from three public high schools participated in the larger study. This paper focuses on the 948 non-White participants who responded to an item on racial-ethnic centrality, of which 24 were excluded due to missing data on key variables as well as the only Native American adolescent. The remaining sample of 923 adolescents included 251 Black, 275 Latino, 138 Asian, and 259 Multiracial participants. As reported by the participants, the Black subgroup was largely composed of African American, Haitian, and Cape Verdean, as well as African and Jamaican adolescents. The majority of Latino adolescents ethnically identified as Puerto Rican and Dominican, with the remainder identifying as Colombian, Mexican, Guatemalan, and El Salvadorean. Asian adolescents consisted of predominantly Chinese or Vietnamese origins, as well as Indian, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, or Pacific Islander ancestry. Within the Multiracial participants, the five largest subgroups were Black/White, Black/Latino, Latino/White, Asian/White, and Black/Native American combinations. The sample was 54% female, ranging in age from 13 to 21 with a mean age of 15.84 (SD = 3.076). One hundred twenty-three participants were missing data for maternal education. Mothers’ educational levels included those who did not complete high school (19%), received a high school diploma or equivalent (20%), attended some college (18%), graduated from a four-year institution (21%), and received a Masters or Doctorate level degree (8%).

Procedure

Seven high schools with varying racial-ethnic composition in the New England area were invited to participate in this study. Three public high schools agreed to participate. The first was a low-income working class, predominantly Latino urban school (68% Latino, 16% White/non-Hispanic, 15% Black, 1% Asian). The second school was primarily White, affluent, and suburban (84% White, non-Hispanic, 7% Asian, 4% Black, and 3% Latino, and 2% Multiracial). The third school was a multicultural, middle income, suburban school (55% Black, 23% White, non-Hispanic, 15% Asian, and 7% Latino; School Matters website, 2008). The schools varied in how many residents within the district were born outside of the U.S., ranging from 11% at the predominantly White suburban school to 22% at the multicultural school to 35% at the predominantly Latino school (http://www.city-data.com – page not listed to maintain confidentiality).Administrative staff and school counselors provided assistance in disseminating study information letters and parent/guardian (passive) consent forms to students. Surveys were translated into Spanish, Portuguese, and French as indicated by classroom teachers. Translations were done using the dual focus approach to generating multiple language versions of instruments and communication (Erkut, Alarcón, García Coll, Tropp, & Vázquez García, 1999). This approach involves preparing translations simultaneously to achieve equivalence in meaning, affect, and usage across languages. Before asking students for their assent, students were informed that their participation was voluntary and their answers would be kept confidential. Teachers administered the surveys in their classrooms using the instructions provided by the researchers. Project personnel were on hand to answer questions and to collect the surveys, which took approximately 20 minutes to complete. Ninety-eight percent of participants answered the surveys in English, with the remaining 2% in Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

Measures

Racial-ethnic identification

Respondents were asked about their race-ethnicity in one of three randomly assigned ways, as part of a larger study on self-categorization of race and ethnicity (Tracy et al., in press): (a) multiple choice checkboxes taken directly from the 2000 Census form; (b) checkboxes and fill-ins; or (c) open-ended fill-in. Participants were also asked to report the race/ethnicity of each biological parent and whether they considered themselves Multiracial. All racial-ethnic identification responses were coded in a two-step process: (1) a single, researcher-identified racial/pan-ethnic category – labels which are widely used in the research literature: Black, White, Asian, Latino, Native, or Multiracial (the latter category was operationalized as identification with two or more racial/ethnic categories); and (2) ethnicity responses were coded by country or region of origin, yielding 22 ethnic groups. Though the “category” Latino is comprised of multiple ethnic and racial origins, we organized the categories to distinguish Latinos from the White, non-Hispanic participants.

Racial/Ethnic centrality

We used Cross and Cross’ (2007) inclusive “racial-ethnic” terminology so that participants could reflect on their racial or ethnic background, in order to widely capture their self-concept of what those labels mean to them. The following question was used to assess centrality of race/ethnicity to adolescent identity: “How

Researchers’ Backgrounds, Experiences, and Biases

Researchers for this study (a female Thai American and a female White, Jewish American) specialize in different areas of adolescent research. Our backgrounds were complementary and struck a balance between having sufficient knowledge to conduct the investigation yet not having been too immersed in existing perspectives and expectations (Fassinger, 2005). One of us had greater expertise in qualitative methods focusing on adolescent identity and agency, including grounded theory methods prior to this study, but had limited empirical experience with racial-ethnic identity, whereas the other investigator had less experience with grounded theory, but had more extensive knowledge of the racial-ethnic identity literature, particularly in the area of racial discrimination and adolescent psychological outcomes. We both completed two years of postdoctoral NICHD training in researching minority adolescent populations and health disparities. Prior to and during data analysis, we discussed our biases and their potential implications for this research, in order to minimize their impact on the data coding process (Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997).

Data Analysis

Qualitative data were obtained from the 575 participants who provided open-ended elaborations of their importance ratings. Eighteen responses were undecipherable or too vague to be interpretable and were therefore excluded, leaving a total of 557 responses included in qualitative analyses. Fifty-three percent of males (n=224) provided open-ended responses, compared to 63% of females (n=333), indicating that these results may be less representative for the male participants. In terms of racial breakdowns, 62% of Black, 53% of Latino, 59% of Asian, and 68% of Multiracial participants provided qualitative responses for analysis.Utilizing a grounded theory approach (Glaser & Strauss, 1967), the two authors systematically analyzed the data in three nonlinear, recursive phases: open, axial, and selective coding. We independently sorted through 200 randomly selected responses from the entire dataset in order to develop open codes for the preliminary categories that emerged. The purpose of the open coding was to explore how to first conceptualize the details of the data, which consisted of breaking down sentences and fragments into thematic categories. Longer and more complex responses often entailed coding more than one theme. During the entire coding process, we remained “blind” to the identifying characteristics of the respondents, namely their racial-ethnic background and sex, to guard against biases that might emerge from unconscious expectations based on group membership.Coding resumed with periodic recalibration of categories through axial coding, i.e. relating the initial codes to each other. This involved checking the agreement between the two independent coders and discussing how to reorganize the open codes, constantly comparing existing data to generate meaningful categories (Charmaz, 2000). The process continued until all categories were saturated. In cases where there were coding disagreements, the coders returned to the original data and codebook to review definitions and criteria of inclusion in a particular category. Lastly, relationships between categories were revised and confirmed through a process of selective coding, illuminating the core categories that arose from prior iterations of coding (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). This final process included incorporation of the scholarly literature as the data analysis proceeded, obtaining outsider perspectives through peer debriefing and a multicultural research team review, and negative case analysis, e.g. returning to the existing data to verify coherence of categories (Fassinger, 2005). Final coding was debated until a consensus was reached or by refining existing codes. Inter-rater reliability of codes was calculated during the axial coding stage. To calculate reliability, the number of agreements was divided by the sum total of agreements and disagreements, then multiplied by 100 (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Reliability for the thematic coding was calculated at 98.4%.

Results and Discussion

First, we quantitatively assessed racial-ethnic and gender differences in levels of reported racial-ethnic centrality. A two way between groups ANCOVA was conducted to assess the racial and gender differences in levels of reported racial-ethnic centrality. Mother’s level of education and participants’ age were included as covariates to control for individual differences, and did not significantly predict centrality. After adjusting for age and mother’s level of education, the interaction between gender and race was not statistically significantThese findings are consistent with research identifying a stronger sense of ethnic identity among African Americans and Latinos, followed by Asians and multiethnic adolescents (Pellebon, 2000). Consistent with these findings, gender differences may exist across several racial-ethnic groups, though prior research has primarily identified gender differences among African Americans (Phinney, 1990; Romero & Roberts, 1998).

Qualitative Themes

Several overarching themes emerged during the grounded theory analysis, reflecting a range of engagement with racial-ethnic identity, which we labeled (a)The major theme ofChi-squared analysis showed significant differences in the number ofThe theme ofWhen adolescents’ responses did not show entirely positive reflections about their racial-ethnic heritage, we coded these responses asIn 20% of the responses, a sense of racial-ethnicAnalyses showed significant differences for the

Conclusions and Implications

This mixed-method study explored the levels and meanings of racial-ethnic importance in adolescents from different cultural backgrounds. Participants’ overall levels of racial-ethnic centrality indicate that they view their racial-ethnic backgrounds as important aspects of their identities. Open-ended responses also indicated high levels ofThe present study also found often overlooked gender differences in the racial-ethnic centrality literature, demonstrating that female participants placed more importance on their racial-ethnic background than did male participants. While findings were mixed regarding gender differences in thematic categories, higher levels of

Limitations

Open-ended responses provided a limited window for analyzing participants’ racial-ethnic centrality and follow up interviews are needed for clarification. While the range of participants’ racial-ethnic backgrounds, particularly the inclusion of Multiracial participants, enabled group comparisons, small numbers of responses within some thematic categories limit the reliability of group comparisons, and did not allow for comparisons of specific racial mixes. We also attempted to expand narrow definitions of race and ethnicity through our measurement and discussion, but recognize the limitations inherent in the five pan-ethnic plus Multiracial categories we used to evaluate group differences. Also, this study’s sample of adolescents from the Northeast may limit the generalizability of results. Finally, higher racial-ethnic centrality for participants who provided open-ended responses also suggests that these categories better represent adolescents with greater engagement with racial and ethnic identity.

Future Directions

More investigation is needed to assess similarities and differences in racial-ethnic centrality and underlying ideological meanings across specific Multiracial groups. Further investigation into the mechanisms of how gender intersects with racial-ethnic identity is also critical. For adolescents of color who feel that race-ethnicity is not important to their self-definition, future qualitative research might explore how race-ethnicity interacts with other components of their identities, such as religion and sexual orientation. Given the variation in racial and ethnic language used within participants’ explanations of centrality, future work might explore how adolescents define and utilize these terms in everyday contexts.Future research in racial-ethnic centrality should also include longitudinal studies that follow participants over the course of adolescence and early adulthood, which is a transitional period of identity development. More mixed-method research would help illuminate possible group-level differences, e.g. race or gender, and probe into the sources of these differences. Future work could devise a new measure of racial-ethnic centrality that would encompass broader issues pertaining to minorities of color, and assess its reliability with diverse communities in different regions of the country. Finally, the development of school-based campaigns for diversity awareness which are sensitive to a range of racial-ethnic engagement for adolescents of color will be critical in this increasingly multicultural society.

Acknowledgments

This study was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (5R21HD049697-02) and by the NICHD postdoctoral fellowship (5T32 HD041917). We wish to thank Sumru Erkut, Michelle Porche, Ineke Ceder, and the Mixed Ancestry Team at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

Footnotes

Contributor Information

Linda Charmaraman, Wellesley Centers for Women.Jennifer M. Grossman, Wellesley Centers for Women.