Fluid or Fixed: Which is Better? Multiracial Identity Consistency and Emotional Well-Being in Adolescence

Fluid or Fixed: Which is Better? Multiracial Identity Consistency and Emotional Well-Being in Adolescence

American Sociological Association
Annual Meeting 2010
Regular Session: Multi-Racial Classification/Identity
Atlanta Marriott Marquis
Monday, 2010-08-16, 16:30-18:10 EDT (Local Time)

Session Organizer: Rebecca C. King-O’Riain, Senior Lecturer of Sociology
National University of Ireland-Maynooth 

Presider: Carolyn A. Liebler, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of Minnesota

Ruth H. Burke
University of Pennsylvania

Rory Kramer
University of Pennsylvania

Camille Zubrinsky Charles, Professor of Sociology and the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in the Social Sciences; Director, The Center for Africana Studies
University of Pennsylvania

Traditional theories of multiracial identity propose that multiracial individuals go through a period of “crisis” in which their racial and ethnic identity is fluid and inconsistent. These theories argue that such fluidity leads to emotional stress. Recent research has shown that this fluidity is more related to socioeconomic status and background and that racial consistency is not a necessary or ideal goal for multiracial individuals. At the same time, others have shown how to measure consistency of identity in survey research such as Add Health but have not yet studied whether or not consistency is related to negative emotional outcomes. In this paper, we expand those measures to include Hispanic ethnic identity in our measure of consistency and test whether or not inconsistency of racial and/or ethnic identity is related to depression. We find that the older, more linear theories of multiraciality are not correct and that fluid identities are not significantly related to higher scores on a standard measure of depression. The paper concludes by discussing how these findings highlight the importance of producing new theories of racial identity that consider fluidity and multidimensionality of racial identity as a natural and neutral part of an individual’s identity.

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