Racial/Ethnic Identity Development Critical in Teen Years, Part 2

To follow up on my Racial/Ethnic Identity Development Critical in Teen Years post, here’s additional research on why it’s important for parents and schools to be pro-active in nurturing and helping teens of color navigate the stages of racial/ethnic identity development in their teen years.

Research published by David Wakefield and Cynthia Hudley in 2007 in “Ethnic and Racial Identity and Adolescent Well-Being” showed the following:

  • Teens of color with a more developed sense of racial/ethnic identity development enjoyed a higher level of self-esteem and that was true of adolescents of African-American, Asian, Latino and Middle Eastern descent.  They also reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Self-esteem and a positive ethnic identity development were reciprocally related, as in they were in mutually reinforcing.

In addition, those teens with a more developed sense of racial/ethnic identity development were:

  • More likely to report positive attitudes towards people of other ethnic and racial groups
  • Less likely to engage in violent and antisocial behavior or use illegal substances, especially true of those teens in urban areas
  • More able to use active strategies to confront racial discrimination instead of passive or aggressive strategies

A longitudinal study of Black adolescents by T. Chavous et. al,  in 2003 showed that those who thought their racial identity was central to their self-concept, attended school more regularly, achieved higher grades, and were more likely to graduate and go on to college.

Those with a less developed sense of racial/ethnic identity were more at risk, more likely to hold internalized negative stereotypes and hold negative views of their group that were detrimental to their mental health specifically:

  • Latinas and biracial adolescent girls who had a less positive identification with their racial group had  a substantial risk for eating disorders

In the end, the authors recommend that there be a partnership between parents and schools in proactively addressing the racial/ethnic identity of teens of color.  They stated that “parents who expose children to their heritage and actively discuss issues relevant to being part of their ethnic group including pride and preparation for bias may be helping teens into an achieved state of ethnic idenity development.”

Schools can promote healthy ethnic identity development by encouraging “same-race as well as cross-race peer relationships, providing same-race role models, and providing students opportunities to learn about their heritage” and others’ heritage.

The authors also conclude that this just doesn’t happen automatically, it takes “explicit attention.”


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One response to “Racial/Ethnic Identity Development Critical in Teen Years, Part 2”

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