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THE IMPORTANCE OF ETHNICITY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF IDENTITY OF BLACK ADOLESCENTS

Published on Aug 1, 1989in Psychological Reports1.023
· DOI :10.2466/pr0.1989.65.1.75
Elizabeth Aries17
Estimated H-index: 17
(Amherst College),
Kimberly Moorehead1
Estimated H-index: 1
(Amherst College)
Abstract
Summary.-Ego-identity status was examined in 20 male and 20 female black junior and senior high school students. Ego-identity was assessed by a semistructured interview measuring questioning and commitment in the traditional areas of occupation, ideology (religion and politics), sexual-interpersonal attitudes and behavior, and the newly added area of ethnicity. The greatest questioning and commitment occurred in the area of ethnicity. Ethnicity was most predictive of over-all identity-status and was seen as most important to self-definition. The other area of central importance was occuparion. While the ideological and sexual-interpersonal areas have been found in previous research to have central importance for white adolescents, they were found in this sample of black adolescents to show rhe lowest concordance with overall identity and to be cited as having least importance in self-definition. The lowest amount of questioning and commitment occurred in these areas. The achievement of ego identity has been described by Erikson (1968) as the process of moving beyond childhood identifications, sorting through and synthesizing them to form a new and unique configuration. Identity development takes place throughout the life course but has its normative crisis at adolescence. At this stage commitments are made which provide a sense of continuity with the past yet construct a pathway toward the future. While ego-identity is a clinical construct that is difficult to delimit and define with precision, it has been successfully operationalized by Marcia (1966). Marcia (1966) developed a semistructured interview to place individuals in one of four identity-statuses or modes of deahng with the issue of identity. Marcia's Identity Status Interview has been widely used to study development of identity at adolescence, and it has been found to be both a reliable and vahd measure of ego-identity; see review by Marcia (1980). Marcia used two dmensions to assess an individual's identity status (1) the presence or absence of a "crisis" or period of questioning and exploration and (2) the presence or absence of a commitment to or investment in a course of action in the areas of occupation and ideology (politics and religion). Individuals are categorized as identity achieved if they have undergone a period of questioning and decision-making and have made occupational and ideological commitments. Individuals are categorized as identity foreclosed if they have made commitments to an occupation and ideology, but their values and goals are reflections of those endorsed by parents or parent surrogates and have never undergone a period of questioning. Indviduals
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