Ego Identity, Ethnic Identity

Ego Identity, Ethnic Identity - IDENTITY AN INTERNATIONAL...

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Ego Identity, Ethnic Identity, and the Psychosocial Well-Being of Ethnic Minority and Majority College Students Gemima R. St. Louis Departments of Psychiatry & Pediatrics Boston University School of Medicine Joan H. Liem Psychology Department University of Massachusetts Boston Although empirical studies have linked a consolidated ego identity to positive psychosocial outcomes for White middle-class adolescents, there is little research documenting this relationship for ethnic minority youth. This study investigated the relationships among ego identity, ethnic identity, and psychosocial functioning, and compared these relationships for ethnic minority and majority college students. The findings revealed that students with an achieved ego identity status had a more posi- tive sense of ethnic identity than did students with a diffused ego identity. Findings also revealed that ethnic minority students reported stronger ethnic identification than did White students and that a stronger sense of ethnic identity was associated with more positive psychosocial outcomes among ethnic minority students, but not among White students. Implications for future research are discussed. The central psychosocial task of adolescence is the formation of a consolidated ego identity defined as a sense of personal sameness and historical continuity that transcends any particular moment or circumstance (Erikson, 1963, 1968). By late adolescence and early adulthood, young people are expected to form a secure ego identity in occupational, educational, and political domains—areas that are be- IDENTITY: AN INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF THEORY AND RESEARCH, 5 (3), 227–246 Copyright © 2005, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Requests for reprints should be sent to Gemima R. St. Louis, The Spark Center at Boston Medical Center, 255 River Street, Boston, MA 02126. E-mail: [email protected]
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lieved to be salient to their psychosocial functioning in American society (Grotevant & Adams, 1984; Waterman, 1982). Ego identity formation is particu- larly critical in young adulthood, specifically during the college years, because the extent to which the identity issue is resolved determines the success or failure of adult development (Erikson, 1968). Just as successful achievement of ego identity ensures adaptive functioning in adulthood, individuals who fail to develop a cohe- sive ego identity are prone to psychological, emotional, and social maladjustment including low self-esteem, depression, academic failure, and poor psychosocial skills (Petersen & Hamburg, 1986). Although a significant body of research has shown that the successful attain- ment of an ego identity predicts adaptive functioning among White middle-class youth (Cramer, 1995; Skoe & Marcia, 1991; Waterman, 1982; Waterman, Geary, & Waterman, 1974), few studies have examined the role of ego identity in the psychosocial well-being of ethnic minority youth (Aries & Moorehead, 1989; Phinney & Alipuria, 1990). Even more limited is the literature linking ego identity to ethnic identity development among individuals from diverse ethnic and racial
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