Examining Multiracial Youth in Context: Ethnic Identity Development and Mental Health Outcomes



Sycarah Fisher, Jennifer L. Reynolds, Wei-Wen Hsu, Jessica Barnes, Kenneth Tyler

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

August 2014







Although multiracial individuals are the fastest growing population in the United States, research on the identity development of multiracial adolescents remains scant. This study explores the relationship between ethnic identity, its components (affirmation, exploration), and mental health outcomes (anxiety, depressive symptoms) within the contexts of schools for multiracial adolescents. The participants were multiracial and monoracial minority and majority high school students (n = 4,766; 54.6 % female). Among the participants, 88.1 % were Caucasian, 7.4 % were African American, and 4.5 % were multiracial. The research questions examined the relationship between ethnic identity exploration and affirmation on mental health outcomes and explored the role school context plays in this relationship. The findings suggested that multiracial youth experience more exploration and less affirmation than African Americans, but more than Caucasians. In addition, multiracial youth were found to have higher levels of mental health issues than their monoracial minority and majority peers. Specifically, multiracial youth had higher levels of depressive symptoms than their African American and Caucasian counterparts. Multiracial and Caucasian youth had similar levels of anxiety but these levels were significantly higher than African Americans. School diversity did not influence mental health outcomes for multiracial youth. These findings provide insight into the experiences of multiracial youth and underscore the importance of further investigating factors that contribute to their mental health outcomes.







Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee