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Predictors of Multiracial Identity Integration: Do Egalitarianism, Skin Tone, and Perceptions of Phenotype Matter?

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

A growing body of literature is starting to examine the predictors, outcomes, and correlates associated with biculturalism and individuals’ abilities to successfully integrate different cultures (Benet-Martinez & Haritatos, 2005). Multiracial identity integration (MII) is one such type of bicultural identity integration, where individuals attempt to integrate their different monoracial identities into one cohesive multiracial identity (Cheng & Lee, 2009). Despite its importance in ethnic-identity development, the literature has not yet clearly identified the factors that may impact MII. For example, egalitarian messages, or messages that focus on the value of all racial groups (Hughes et al., 2006) have been proposed as a mechanism that may help individuals value all their racial identities, thus leading to more integration (Villegas-Gold & Tran, 2018). Similarly, skin tone, self-perceptions, and others’ perception of one’s phenotype may serve as primes and impact the salience of certain monoracial racial identities (Gaither, 2015), which may in turn impact multiracial identity integration. It is thus important to consider how others’ perceptions and multiracial individuals’ self-perceptions of phenotype, as well as egalitarian ethnic-racial socialization messages may affect MII.
This exploratory study assed whether egalitarian messages, skin tone, and perception of phenotype impacted MII in a sample of 74 diverse multiracial college students. Two regression analyses were run looking at the impact of egalitarian messages (cultural pluralism subscale; Juang et al., 2016) and skin tone, along with participants’ self-perception and other-perception of whether they looked racially ambiguous or phenotypically monoracial on multiracial identity distance and conflict (MII; Cheng & Lee, 2009). Mothers’ and fathers’ egalitarian messages were examined together and separately. We hypothesized that more egalitarian messages from parents would predict lower identity distance and conflict, but that believing others perceive you and perceiving oneself as phenotypically monoracial would predict greater identity distance and conflict, or lower identity integration.
Linear regression analyses supported our hypotheses, indicating that more frequent egalitarian messages from parents predict lower identity distance (β=-.274, p=.009). Looking at mothers’ and fathers’ egalitarian messages separately revealed that fathers’ egalitarian messages predicted lower identity distance (β=-.276, p=.01), but mothers’ messages did not (β=-.048, p=.647). Partly consistent with our hypotheses, having darker skin (β=.226, p=.034), and perceiving oneself as looking phenotypically monoracial (β=-.308, p=.004), predicted greater identity distance. Others’ perceptions did not influence identity distance, and none of our predictors influenced identity conflict. Our results suggest that egalitarian messages, especially when delivered by non-white fathers, are important in helping multiracial youth perceive smaller and smaller distances between their multiple monoracial identities. They also suggest that having darker skin and thinking of oneself as looking like a monoracial group member leads to greater distance between individuals’ identities. Future work should continue to examine the links between socialization and identity, whilst also examining psychosocial outcomes associated with low and high racial distance. Also, given that our predictors of identity distance did not reliably predict conflict, future work should aim to identify factors associated with identity conflict. Finally, future work should continue to identify additional factors that impact MII.

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