Year of Publication

2006

Document Type

Thesis

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Tamara Lynette Brown

Abstract

Ethnic identity is a significant psychological variable for the study of African Americans in the United States and often associated with psychological health. However, the nature of this relationship is sometimes unclear. One reason for the confusion may be that ethnic identity is often confounded with acculturation as they are sometimes used interchangeably in research. Because of this confounding problem, it is not clear whether the relationship between ethnic identity and psychological health is really a reflection of ethnic identity or of ethnic identity confounded with acculturation. Thus, the aim of this study was to use factor analysis to separate ethnic identity and acculturation at the measurement level and examine the unique impact of each on both positive and negative psychosocial functioning among African Americans. Two ethnic identity measures (MEIM and the MIBI) and two acculturation measures (AfAAS and the MASPAD) were administered to 173 (65 males and 118 females) African American students attending a historically Black university (mean age = 21, SD = 2.7). The 96 items from these measures were factor analyzed using principal components analysis. Findings support the hypothesis of confounding in existing measures. However, results indicate that acculturation and ethnic identity are differentiable at the item level and are multidimensional. Eight internally reliable factors emerged representing different dimensions of these constructs. Three of the factors (ethnic pride, ethnic belonging, and public regard) were consistent with existing definitions of ethnic identity. The remaining five factors (out-group comfort, in-group rejection, assimilationist ideology, traditional behaviors/beliefs, and in-group preference) were consistent with the bi-dimensional definition of acculturation. These ethnic identity and acculturation factors predicted some outcomes similarly but differentially predicted others. Several implications follow from this study. First, in order to better understand the relationship between ethnic identity and psychosocial functioning, researchers need to use measures that are not confounded with other related but different constructs. Future research should focus on the dimension level rather than the overall construct level. Focusing more narrowly on the dimension level may produce research that can more accurately inform interventions with African Americans.

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