Identity Project: An Intervention Targeting Adolescents' Ethnic-Racial Identity Development

Identity Project - adolescents working at a tableDuring adolescence, the question “Who Am I?” is constantly on teens’ minds as they develop their identities and figure out who they are and who they will become. Teens sometimes think about their ethnic heritage or culture when answering this question; more specifically, this is referred to as teens’ ethnic identity. Understanding how their ethnic identity fits into their larger sense of self is important for many teens. In fact, ethnic identity has implications for many different parts of adolescents’ lives, including psychological well-being, academic performance, and peer relationships. Specifically, research studies have shown that when adolescents have thought about their ethnic identity and have tried to understand more about their background, they fare better in each of these domains.

The development of ethnic identity is a complex process, as teens explore what their ethnicity means to them, try to understand the role of ethnicity in their everyday lives, and decide how they feel about that aspect of themselves. The Identity Project is designed to provide adolescents of any ethnic background with tools and strategies that help them explore and understand their constantly evolving identity in relation to their ethnicity. The major goal of this project is to design a theoretically grounded and ecologically valid curriculum for an intervention that promotes the identity formation process during adolescence.

What do teachers have to say about the program?

I knew in my heart from the beginning the students would benefit from the project and was fortunate to have the opportunity to share this experience with them. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and Sara and supporting your research. It is good to hear that your efforts have continued to develop and show positive results.

Department Head and Teacher from Arizona partner school

 

Investigative Team:     

Adriana Umaña-Taylor (Harvard Graduate School of Education)

Sara Douglass (OMNI)

Kimberly Updegraff (Arizona State University)

Flavio Marsiglia (Arizona State University)

Olga Kornienko (George Mason University)

Funding Source: Latino Resilience Enterprise, Arizona State University

 

Publications

Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Kornienko, O., Douglass, S., & Updegraff, K. A., (in press). A Universal Intervention Program Increases Ethnic-Racial Identity Exploration and Resolution to Predict Adolescent Psychosocial Functioning One Year Later. Journal of Youth & Adolescence.

Ethnic-racial identity formation represents a key developmental task that is especially salient during adolescence and has been associated with many indices of positive adjustment. The Identity Project intervention, which targeted ethnic-racial identity exploration and resolution, was designed based on the theory that program-induced changes in ethnic-racial identity would lead to better psychosocial adjustment (e.g., global identity cohesion, self-esteem, mental health, academic achievement). Adolescents (N = 215; Mage = 15.02, SD = .68; 50% female) participated in a small-scale randomized control trial with an attention control group. A cascading mediation model was tested using pre-test and three follow-up assessments (12 weeks, 18 weeks, and 67 weeks after baseline). The program led to increases in exploration, subsequent increases in resolution and, in turn, higher global identity cohesion, higher self-esteem, lower depressive symptoms, and better grades. Results support the notion that increasing adolescents’ ethnic-racial identity can promote positive psychosocial functioning among youth.

Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Douglass, S., Updegraff, K. A., & Marsiglia, F. (in press). Small-scale randomized efficacy trial of the Identity Project: Promoting adolescents’ ethnic-racial identity exploration and resolution. Child Development. DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12755

Adolescents’ ethnic–racial identity (ERI) formation represents an important developmental process that is associated with adjustment. The Identity Project intervention, grounded in developmental theory, was designed to engage adolescents in the ERI processes of exploration and resolution. The current small-scale efficacy trial involved an ethnic–racially diverse sample of adolescents (N = 215; Mage = 15.02, SD = .68) from eight classrooms that were randomly assigned by classroom to the intervention or attention control group. Differences between conditions in ERI exploration at Time 2 were consistent with desired intervention effects; furthermore, higher levels of ERI exploration at Time 2 predicted increases in ERI resolution at Time 3 only for youth in the treatment condition. Findings provide preliminary evidence of program efficacy.

Douglass, S., & Umaña-Taylor, A. J. (2017). Exam ining discrimination, ethnic-racial identity status, and youth public regard among Black, Latino, and White adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 27, 155-172. doi: 10.1111/jora.12262

How positively adolescents believe others feel about their ethnic-racial group (i.e., public regard) is an important part of their ethnic-racial identity (ERI), which is likely informed by contextual and individual factors. Using cluster analyses to generate ERI statuses among Black, Latino, and White adolescents (N = 1,378), we found that associations between peer versus adult discrimination and public regard varied across ERI status and ethnic-racial group. However, among all adolescents, an achieved ERI (i.e., having explored ethnicity-race and having a clear sense about its personal meaning) buffered the negative association between adult discrimination and public regard, but not between peer discrimination and public regard. Implications for understanding the interplay between contextual and individual factors for public regard are discussed.

Umaña-Taylor, A. J., & Douglass, S. (2016). Developing an ethnic-racial identity intervention from a developmental perspective: Process, content, and implementation. In N. J. Cabrera & B. Leyendecker (eds.), Handbook of Positive Development of Minority Children and Youth (pp. 437-453). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

The current chapter describes the process of developing an intervention grounded in developmental theory and focused on increasing adolescents' ethnic-racial identity exploration and resolution. We begin by describing the impetus for the focus on ethnic-racial identity as a target for intervention, which includes a brief overview of existing basic research identifying consistent associations between developmental features of ethnic-racial identity and adolescents' positive adjustment. We then review existing intervention efforts focused on identity, generally, and ethnic or cultural identity, specifically. In the second part of the chapter we present our approach for working with a community partner toward the development of the Identity Project intervention, discuss the mixed method (i.e., quantitative and qualitative) approach we used to develop the curriculum, and describe the curriculum. The chapter ends with a discussion of considerations for implementation, including the universal nature of the program and ideas regarding transportability.

Douglass, S. & Umaña-Taylor, A. J. (2015). A brief form of the Ethnic Identity Scale: Development and empirical validation. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 15(1), 48-65. doi:10.1080/15283488.2014.989442

Theory and research have long indicated that ethnic-racial identity is a complex and multifaceted construct. However, there is a paucity of brief, easily administered measures that adequately capture this multidimensionality. Two studies were conducted to develop an abbreviated version of the Ethnic Identity Scale (EIS) and to explore its psychometric properties in the United States. In Study 1, the use of item-reduction techniques with a sample of adolescent Latinos (n = 323) resulted in a 9-item brief version of the EIS (EIS-B), including subscales of Exploration, Resolution, and Affirmation; furthermore, longitudinal analyses provided initial support for the construct validity of the subscales. In Study 2, the factor structure of the EIS-B was examined among an ethnically diverse sample of college students (n = 9,492), and findings provided support for strong measurement invariance across ethnic groups for the EIS-B. Together, findings from both studies provided preliminary evidence for the validity and reliability of the EIS-B as a brief measure of the multidimensional construct of ethnic-racial identity, and indicated that the EIS-B assessed ethnic-racial identity in a comparable manner to the original version of the scale.

 

Presentations

Fuentes, S., Umaña-Taylor, A.J., Douglass, S., & Updegraff, K. (2016, March). Is an American Identity Synonymous with an Ethnic-Racial Identity for Some Youth, but not Others? Poster presented at the Society for Research on Adolescence Biennial Meeting, Baltimore, MD.

Douglass, S. & Umaña-Taylor, A. J. (2014, June). A brief form of the Ethnic Identity Scale: Development and empirical validation. Paper presented at the APA Division 45: Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race 2014 Annual Meeting, Eugene, OR.