Investigations: Problem behavior

Investigations: Problem behavior

University of Chicago Magazine
October 2006
Volume 99, Issue 1

Lydialyle Gibson

For American children, says Yoonsun Choi, assistant professor at the School of Social Service Administration, early adolescence isn’t getting any simpler. Besides the awkwardness and looming angst, there’s this: more and more youth now find themselves navigating the uncertain territory of multiracial heritage. (Even the term is ambiguous; it can refer to having parents of different races or to generations-old diversity.) The multiracial experience frequently corresponds, Choi says, with higher rates of violence and substance use. “Consistently multiracial youth show, in almost all behavior problems—alcohol, smoking, marijuana, fighting—more problems than other children.”…

…“However, there is some indication that a strong ethnic identity” with at least one race—a sense of racial or cultural pride, belonging, and confidence—“helps protect kids from these behaviors,” Choi says. But youths must strike a sometimes difficult balance. “This research is just emerging, but it is saying that ethnic identity for multiracial children is unique. They need to endorse every part of who they are, and for children of combinations from conflicting groups”—for instance, black and white or, Choi says, Asian and black—“that will be hard.”…

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