Self-Esteem is widely studied in a variety of topics regarding social development of adolescents. With the amount of scholarly research increasing about Multiracial individuals and families, it is only natural that self-esteem be examined in Biracial adolescents as compared to other ethnic groups. While this may seem like a basic topic, considering the fact that it was not examined previously makes it interesting to focus on.
In 2004, Jeana Bracey and Mayra Bámaca, both graduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, along with Assistant Professor Adrianna Umaña-Taylor, self-esteem, ethnic identity, and the relationship between the two among 3282 Biracial and Monoracial adolescents. Participants ranged in age from 13 to 20. Participants completed Rosenberg’s self-esteem scale, which shows if the participant has a positive or negative view of the self, as in this study self-esteem refers to a personal judgment of worthiness expressed via attitudes the individual holds about himself or herself. Participants also completed the Phinney’s Multigroup Ethnic Identity scale, which looks whether an individual has positive or negative feelings about one’s ethnic group.
The primary results found that Biracial adolescents had significantly higher self-esteem than their Asian peers, but significantly lower self-esteem than their black peers. On the Ethnic identity scale, the Biracial adolescents score significantly higher than their white peers, but significantly lower than their Asian, Black, and Latin@ peers. Although positive relationships emerged between self-esteem and ethnic identity for all groups, there was no significant difference in the relationship between self-esteem and ethnic identity between the different ethnic groups studied.
The significant differences that sandwich Biracial self-esteem between Asian self-esteem and Black self-esteem surprised me. Again, because of the awkwardness of youth, I figured there would not be much difference between the groups, and I wondered why these three in particular stuck out in the statistics. In the discussion, it is explained that previous research has established perceptions that Blacks have high self-esteem attributed to strong community support and resilience toward discrimination and that Asians have low self-esteem attributed to cultural marginality and collectivist world views. The researchers also suggest that lower Asian self-esteem scores may be the result of specific Asian cultures being more modest in response to questions regarding the self as opposed to western cultures that emphasize valuing an individual’s self-worth. Bracey, Bámaca, and Umaña-Taylor suggest the Biracial adolescents fall between Asians and Blacks due to the lack of a strong network perhaps a consequence of cultural marginality, but that they benefit from being bicultural.
Due to the fact that this is a correlational study, we cannot be sure what it is that effects the differences reflected in the statistics. Therefore, it is easier for me to try to make meaning of the results in the context of my own life. I, like many other adolescents despite different ethnicities, was awkward as an adolescent. Adolescence is the time of life where you are trying to find where you fit, and are asking questions left and right about identity. As a Biracial adolescent, of course I questioned what this meant, and I sort of felt that while I was proud to claim being Biracial, I didn’t see a cultural community that could help me understand it more. This could perhaps be the case for others, explaining the lower ethnic identity scores.
As any good study does, this one leaves more questions than answers. Reflect on your time as an adolescent. How was self-esteem? How strong did you feel connected to your ethnic identity? Although the study suggest lack of community for Biracial individuals, Swirl is proof that there are organizations committed to starting discussions about identity and connecting individuals across the spectrum of race and ethnicity, which can no doubt boost our self-esteem and ethnic identity.
Bracey, J.R., Bámaca, M.Y., & Umaña-Taylor, A.J. (2004). Examining ethnic identity and self-esteem among biracial and monoracial adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol 33, 123-132.