much the way majority White samples do, and as experiencing the self-exploration or identity development that seems to be the hallmark of emerging adulthood. For example, Black males define manhood individualistically, characterized by personal responsibility and self-
determination, much as Whites do (Hunter & Davis, 1992). Yip, Seaton, and Sellers (2006) investigated African American racial identity across the life span, and found that although more young adults had reached identity achievement status than adolescents, identity issues were still front and center for more than half of the college age group. Yip et al. argue that college experiences can “intensify the process of developing a racial and/or ethnic identity” (p. 1515). Deaux and Ethier (1998) make a similar argument, suggesting that college itself tends to serve as a catalyst for ethnic identity development, partly because of opportunities such as access to groups organized around race and college courses on racial or ethnic history. These kinds of experiences may make race and ethnicity more salient. Interestingly, Yip and her colleagues found that the only age group in which an identity status (diffusion) was linked to depression was the college age group, indicating that identity constructions in this age range have critical psychological consequences. Whether or not emerging adults attend college, their social worlds are likely to expand beyond immediate family, friends, and neighbors (Arnett & Brody, 2008, p. 292). For African Americans, this often means moving into a much more ethnically diverse world than the schools and neighborhoods of their childhood. In college, fewer instructors or students are likely to be Black; in work environments, few employers and co-workers will be Black. Minority stress, the experience of prejudice and discrimination due to membership in a stigmatized group (Meyer, 2003) is very likely to increase.
Arnett and Brody (2008) argue that dealing with identity issues with these added sources of stress may intensify the process. “We believe that identity issues are especially acute for African American emerging adults due to the injection of discrimination and prejudice, and that this may explain a range of puzzling findings” (p. 292). One is the racial crossover effect. African American adolescents engage in less substance use than White adolescents. But the reverse is true in adulthood, when African Americans use substances more than Whites. Another puzzling finding concerns male suicide rates. Males are much more prone to suicide than females. White males show a steady rise in suicide rates through much of adulthood, with the sharpest rise after age 65. But for Black males the peak suicide rate occurs much earlier, between 25 and 34. Arnett and Brody speculate that “there are uniquely formidable challenges to forming a Black male identity” in the United States and that for some the strain may become intolerable during early adulthood (p. 293).
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