An Examination of Adolescents' Social and School Influences on Ethnic Identity Development in Emerging Adults
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Ethnic identity is an important aspect of individuals’ sense of self. For individuals identified as ethnic minorities, ethnic identity has been found to be a potential protective factor for overall well-being. Multiracials (i.e., individuals identified with two or more races) are one of the fastest growing minority populations in the United States. Limited research examining multiracials’ ethnic identity development currently exists. Furthermore, there is a paucity of ethnic identity literature examining longitudinal ethnic identity growth from adolescence to emerging adulthood. Ethnic minority adolescents, such as multiracials, and emerging adults are often at higher risk for lower psychological well-being and higher substance use. Therefore, understanding developmental trajectories and factors that contribute to ethnic identity development allows for clinicians to work with ethnic minority individuals in ways that are empowering and facilitate success. The current study utilizes Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) to examine longitudinal growth trajectories of ethnic identity among multiracial and monoracial groups (White, Black, Latino/a, and Other [includes Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and Other]). HLM was also used to examine the relationships between social factors (i.e., experiences of discrimination, teasing by peers, and bullying) and school contextual factors (i.e., school climate, school safety, and perception of teachers) factors in the development of ethnic identity over time. The present study drew from an ethnically diverse sample of individuals living in the Pacific Northwest who were assessed each year from grade 6 to 9 and once during emerging adulthood (N = 593). Results indicated small linear increases of ethnic identity over time. In general, ethnic identity increased from Grades 6 through 8, decreased from Grade 8 to 9, and increased again from Grade 9 to emerging adulthood. Multiracials’ ethnic identity growth, however, did not differ from the identity growth of individuals within monoracial groups. Negative peer interactions significantly contributed to decreases in ethnic identity scores for individuals from Grade 8 to 9. School context did not significantly contribute to changes in ethnic identity growth. Findings suggest that individuals’ ethnic identity changes over time, and is significantly impacted by peer interactions.