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Exploring the Relationships between Racial/Cultural Identity and Ego Identity Among African Americans and Mexican Americans: Summary and Critique

Abstract

This paper summarizes and critiques a study done in 2000 by Meville L. Marie, Danel Koonce,Pat Darlington and Brian Whitlock. Their study, Exploring the Relationships between Racial/Cultural Identity and Ego Identity Among African Americans and Mexican Americans studies collective identity models that looks at how individuals react differently to discrimination and exploitation and develop different schemas to interpret those experiences. Many studies have investigated how an individual identifies as a racial or cultural being may influence how they identify as a unique individual. Studies also investigated how racial and cultural identity are linked to ego identity. However they seem to ignore the impact of racism on their lives.

Introduction

The development of ethnic identity is a critical facet, particularly for people of color. Exploring the relationships between racial/cultural Identity and Ego Identity among African Americans and Mexican Americans analyses that ego identity is significantly related to racial identity for African Americans and cultural identity for Mexican Americans.

Summary of Article

Miville & Helms, 1996 discuss that collective identity models may result in a variety of identity resolutions if the individual experiences conflict regarding their collective identity. They elaborated this with an example that African American with a positive racial identity may have higher self esteem and feelings of inner security than those who have a more conflicted or distorted racial identity. Turner and other theorists and mental health practitioners further highlight how an individual identifies as a racial or cultural being, particularly if he or she has to work at feeling positively about their racial or cultural characteristics, may significantly influence how they identity as a unique individual (personal values,beliefs,political ideology,career choices..)

Marcia (1966, 1980) introduced the Ego Identity Status (EIS) model that focuses on crisis and commitment — two basic processes. Several studies and research (Phinney and Alipuria 1990) indicate that racial and cultural themes may influence the ego identity of people of color. However, there are few studies that directly examine the relationship between racial or cultural identity and the EIS model. The purpose of the studies conducted by Miville & Helms was to examine how collective identity (i.e racial and cultural identity) predicted ego identity among African Americans and Mexican Americans. The hypotheses presented, treated both statuses (crisis and commitment) similarly regarding predicted relationships with collective identity statuses. Therefore, two studies were presented. The first study focused on the relationship between racial identity and ego identity among African Americans and the second study focused on the relationship between cultural (Hispanic) identity and ego identity among Mexican Americans.

The first study was done among African American full time college students from a black college in south. Most of them were women (56%) and had a mean age of 21 years. Majority of them were freshmen (51%), sophomores (18%) , juniors (18%) and seniors (13%). The instrument used was a demographic sheet that included multiple choice and open ended questions regarding the participants demographic background. Students were asked to complete the packet in class and return it to their administrators. Students were then given a debriefing form. The Black Racial Identity Attitude  Scale (BRIAS; Helms, 1990,1995) was used to measure racial identity attitudes and the sub scale reflected the stages of racial identity development. The Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status (EOM—EIS; Bennion & Adams, 1986) was used to measure the presence of crisis and commitment in 8 personally relevant domains.

The results of the study showed that racial identity was significantly linked with ego identity for the sample of African Americans, although the relationships were somewhat weak. Therefore, a positive racial identity indicated ego identity achievement. However, it also indicated that more naive and white oriented racial identity attitudes were linked with experiencing ego identity crisis and exploration .

The second study was done among Hispanics living in southern Florida. Full time students were recruited from several colleges and universities and had a mean age of 19 years, consisting mostly women (67%). Majority of them were freshmen (74%). The instrument used was a demographic sheet that included multiple choice and open ended questions regarding the participants demographic background. The Visible Racial/Ethic Identity Attitude scale (VIAS; Helms & Carter, 1985) was used to measure the cultural identity. The Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status (EOM—EIS; Bennion & Adams, 1986) was also used to assess ego identity. Students were asked to complete the packet in class and return it to their administrators. Students were then given a debriefing form.

The results of the study showed a fairly strong relationship between cultural and ego identity among Hispanics. Positive Cultural Identity predicted an achieved ego identity.  At the same time, cultural identity conflicts with both ego identity crisis and confusion i.e revolving cultural and ego identities may be parallel processes. The study also indicated that Mexican Americans may represent a more healthy ego identity resolution  through the adoption of parental cultural values. 

Personal Reaction

I chose to examine this study because I am interested in the effect culture has on people. This study caught my interest, as it not only explores the racial/cultural identity but also discusses how ego identity is related to it. It was interesting to understand how achieving an ego identity was predicted by achieving a positive racial or cultural identity. Ego identity crisis were linked to conforming racial identity for African American wheres ego identity crisis were linked with cultural identity conflicts for Mexican Americans. Thus highlighting the fact that there are intergroup differences that affect the relationship between collective identities and ego identities. For example relationships between ego identity crisis and racial cultural conflicts were strong for Mexican Americans and less for African Americans. The study was unable to shed light on how collective and ego identity are interrelated as a whole. The study was very informative, although it was a bit overwhelming because of its many dimensions, especially in the instruments section. The methods used to obtain the result were new to my knowledge and difficult to read/analyze. 

Conclusion

Through this study, Marie L. Miville,Danel Koonce,Pat Darlington and Brian Whitlock proved that both African Americans and Mexican Americans have developed collective identities (racial and cultural) that are significantly related to ego identity. The present studies indicate that the processes of search and commitment at the collective identity level may affect similar processes at personal level. The opposite might be true as well i.e ego identity search and resolution may affect collective identity search and resolution.

References 

Marie L. Miville, Danel Koonce, Pat Darlington, Brian Whitlock (October, 2000). Exploring the realtionships between Racial/Cultural Identity and Ego Identity Among AfricanAmericans and Mexican Americans. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development; Oct 2000; 28, 4; ProQuest pg. 208