As I conclude my internship with Swirl Inc., I present the research that I have done, which examines if believing that race is a social construct correlates with a biracial individual’s self-esteem. Thank you to all who have participated! The following is an abridged version of the reasoning behind and findings of my research:
A majority of the previous research regarding the biracial population has focused on biracial identity development and a biracial individual’s understanding of racial categories in society (Shih, Bonam, Sanchez, & Peck, 2007). Shih et al. (2007) found that biracial individuals tend to be less vulnerable to stereotypes due to their beliefs that race does not define and individual’s character or skills and is instead a social construct. However this is not to say that biracial individuals are not affected by negative feedback and stereotypes; Sanchez and Bonam (2009) found that biracial individuals who disclosed their identity and had been denied something on the grounds of that disclosure are more likely to have low self-esteem than those biracial individuals who did not disclose their racial background. Unfortunately, no study has been done that looks at how much a biracial individual’s self-esteem is connected to how they perceive race in society. While Bracy, Bámaca, and Umaña-Taylor (2004) examined self-esteem and ethnic identity for biracial adolescents in comparison to their monoracial peers, it is yet to be seen how this translates to adults, who should be much further along in their racial identity development.
If biracial individuals are more likely to view race as a social construct that does not define character or skills than their monoracial peers, and this skill helps them to deter stereotypes, then why is their self-esteem negatively affected when they are rejected on the basis of race? To examine this question, this study will examine the relationship between self-esteem and the belief that race is a social construct in biracial individuals. I hypothesize that belief that race is a social construct is connected to one’s self-esteem so that the stronger the belief that race is a social construct, the higher one’s self-esteem.
Results and Discussion
In this study, I sought to explore if the idea of race being a social construct correlates with self-esteem for multiracial individuals. However there was no support for the hypothesis: the results showed no significant correlation between the idea of race as a social construct and self-esteem. Despite the lack of a significant relationship, the results regarding self-esteem were interesting: The results indicated that 89.2% of the sample reported having a self-esteem score below 25, which suggests low self-esteem.
A major limitation of this study was the small number of participants. Not only would perhaps having more participants boost the chances of significance, having monoracial samples to compare the biracial sample too would have allowed us to see if belief in social construct of race has an effect on an individual’s self-esteem. Due to the fact that previous self-esteem studies for biracial individuals focus on adolescents and not adults, it is unclear if the self-esteem scores are representative of the multiracial population (Bracy, Bámaca, and Umaña-Taylor, 2004). While Bracy, Bámaca, and Umaña-Taylor (2004), who found that Biracial adolescents reported significantly higher self-esteem than their Asian peers but significantly less self-esteem than their Black peers, since we did not compare our sample to monoracial populations, it is hard to really see what the difference in self-esteem in multiracial adults to monoracial adults is. Furthermore, having only a total of three men in the sample hurts the external validity of this study even further. Future research should include a wider sample and compare multiracial adults to their monoracial peers.
This study was very small, so if anything else I hope it gets other people thinking and exploring these questions on a greater scale. Thank you!
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.
Sanchez, D. T., & Bonam, C. M. (2009). To disclose or not to disclose biracial identity: The effect of biracial disclosure on perceiver evaluations and target responses. Journal of Social Issues, 65, 129-149. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2008.01591.x
Shih, M., Bonam, C., Sanchez, D., & Peck, C. (2007). The social construction of race: Biracial identity and vulnerability to stereotypes. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 13, 125-133. doi:10.1037/1099-9809.13.2.125