multifaceted concept

Ethnic identity is a multifaceted concept that describes how people develop and experience a sense of belonging to their culture. Researchers, on the other hand, have studied the different ways through which children and adolescents experience this sense of belongingness. In the article,Making meaning in middle childhood: An exploration of the meaning of ethnic identity, the researchers note that the development of race and ethnicity begins when children ascribe meanings to labels or make sense of the content, For example, a child may view race as physical characteristics or just by the language of a person. Ethnic identity is the all-encompassing of a group, their uniqueness in physical characteristics, cultural experiences, language , group pride and awareness of group differences and social consequences( as cited in Halim et al., 2012) This meaning-making process provides children with the foundation to construct their social-cultural identity. However, it is not always an easy process for children to understand and identify with their social-cultural identity . As researchers and developmental psychologist understand psychological well-being and higher self-esteem enables children and adolescent to have a strong ethnic identity.

Developmental assumptions may result from false or disparaging claims about a racial or ethnic group. Most of the assumptions can be harmful and damaging to a particular ethnic group . One developmental assumption is the anticipated low self-esteem of African American children, although more recent studies reveal otherwise. Quintana ( 2007) expresses how this racial stigmatization is likely to have a negative impact on children and adolescents who are developing a positive identification to their race and ethnic groups. For example, when an adolescent focus on positive aspects of their ethnic group they would most likely make favorable judgments, and thereby transform a negative orientation to the reference group into a positive one by cultivating pride into the group ( cited in Quintana, 2007).An assumption made about a group can yield discrimination, biases, and prejudices about the ethnic group. As a professional working with children and adolescents, it is essential to be aware of the social-cultural backgrounds of the population in which you are serving in order to confront your own weakness and prejudices. A healthy and meaningful communication about the disparities between groups will foster trust and also encourage children to build their confidence self-esteem.


Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014j). Racial and ethnic identity [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Rogers, L. O., Zosuls, K. M., Halim, M. L., Ruble, D., Hughes, D., & Fuligni, A. (2012). Meaning making in middle childhood: An exploration of the meaning of ethnic identity. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology,18(2), 99–108.

Quintana, S. M. (2007). Racial and ethnic identity: Developmental perspectives and research. Journal of Counseling Psychology 54(3), 259–270

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