Racially Socializing Biracial Youth: A Cultural Ecological Study of Parental Influences on Racial Identity

Racially Socializing Biracial Youth: A Cultural Ecological Study of Parental Influences on Racial Identity


Alethea Rollins
University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Andrea G. Hunter, Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies
University of North Carolina, Greensboro

A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of The Graduate School at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy

As our society becomes increasingly multiracial, it is imperative that parents, teachers, counselors, and researchers consider the complex processes associated with crossing racial boundaries and occupying a biracial social location. Few investigations have explored racial socialization within biracial families, and none have empirically examined the relationship between racial socialization and the multidimensional components of racial identity. Using a cultural ecological framework, this study explored the racial socialization messages used by mothers of biracial adolescents and evaluated the relative impact of these messages on the racial identity of biracial adolescents. Data for this study were taken from a public-use subsample of the longitudinal Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study (MADICS; Eccles, 1997). For this investigation, participants were 104 biracial adolescents and their mothers. Mothers of biracial adolescents engaged in a full range of racial socialization messages, including cultural, minority, mainstream, egalitarian, and no racial socialization messages. Racial socialization varied by maternal race, such that Black mothers were most likely to use mainstream socialization messages while White and other minority mothers were more likely to provide no direct racial socialization. In general, Black mothers provided more socialization than their White and other minority counterparts. Mothers of biracial adolescents reported using a combination of racial socialization messages, which can be conceptually reduced into three racial socialization strategies, namely, proactive, protective, and no racial socialization strategies. Proactive socialization was associated with racial identity salience, such that biracial adolescents who received proactive racial socialization reported less racial salience. In addition, maternal race was associated with racial salience, private regard, and exploration, such that biracial adolescents with a White mother reported lower racial salience, private regard, and racial exploration.

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