The Role of Social Environment

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Multiracial identity theory has highlighted the role of the social environment. Messages multiracial people receive from their families, social circles, and the larger historical societal views have been identified as important factors (Rockquemore, Brunsma, & Delgado, 2009). For this study, analyses focused upon individuals aged 18 to 40 years as these individuals were believed to be generationally distinct from multiracial adults older than 41 years of age as there were significant cultural shifts in the recognition of multiracial identity during this time period (Nishime, 2012). Previous studies have explored psychological well-being for multiracial adolescents and found negative outcomes for adjustment, depressive symptoms, and lower self-esteem (Shih & Sanchez, 2009). However, developmental differences between multiracial adolescents and adults have not been explored empirically. Age was not found to be a significant factor in this study, which suggests that age alone does not account for individual differences in the relationship between racial malleability and psychological well-being for this sample. This may be due to shifting practices in racial socialization, which has been identified as having an important role in the development of multiracial identity (Rollins & Hunter, 2013). Therefore, the shift in societal views on being multiracial may gradually impact the way parents socialize their children to think about race. This shift in parenting practices and societal views may not cleanly impact one generation of multiracial people compared to another, rather it may need to be assessed individually instead of assuming generational shifts. Lack of Family Acceptance. For the study sample, lack of family acceptance was found to be a significant predictor of perceived stress. It is important to note that lack of family acceptance was only significant when the interaction terms were included in the model. It is possible that the relationship between lack of family acceptance and perceived stress is influenced by other factors such as the interaction between racial malleability and identity questioning. Previous research has highlighted the importance of family messages regarding racial microaggressions (Nadal et al., 2013). Thus, a relationship may be contextual whereby lack of family acceptance and the experience of identity questioning may impact psychological well-being during negative environments where race is salient. Further, there may need to be other measures of the social experiences of multiracial people such as accounting for social connectedness (Good, Chavez, & Sanchez, 2010) and racial socialization (Rollins & Hunter, 2013; LorezoBlanco, Bares, & Delva, 2013), which have been shown to influence family relationships and multiracial identity. Implications This dissertation research has implications for research and counseling with multiracial people. First it fills in some of the dearth in multiracial research in 84 counseling. Edwards and Pedrotti (2008) highlighted the lack of research on multiracial individuals put forth in counseling journals. This research underscores the importance of allowing individuals to self-identify with more complexity than checkbox responses for assessing race. Participants frequently preferred to write in more detail about how they identify. In order to accurately capture this segment of the population on the US Census, education, and health care forms, there must be a shift in how race is assessed within the United States. There is a need to allow for the multiracial population to choose how they express their identity rather than the current checkbox options, which sacrifice accuracy for simplicity. Furthermore, the current study utilized psychometrically validated quantitative measures specifically created for multiracial individuals, which helps to build the growing empirical literature with tools developed for, with and about a population that is unique in traditional psychological research (Salahuddin & O’Brian, 2011). The current study helps to fill in the gap for studies examining the role of racial malleability in psychological well-being and indicates that the relationship must continue to be explored. Overall, the findings from this study continue to bridge the gap between multiracial theory and empirical research. Helping professionals working with multiracial individuals should acknowledge the complexity and diversity of multiracial individuals. Further, the current sample did not indicate higher levels of stress compared to the general population, but did report having average life satisfaction. Therefore deficit models characterizing multiracial individuals as uniformly suffer from confusion, sadness and lack of connection are outdated. When working with multiracial individuals, however, findings from this study indicate that experiences of having one’s identity questioned or perceiving a lack of family acceptance should be assessed, as those experiences may impact psychological well-being. Additionally, regardless of how multiracial individuals identify in varied situations, having a strong sense of self plays an important role in psychological wellbeing. Helping professionals may focus their work on helping multiracial people develop self-knowledge as a way of helping increase life satisfaction and buffer against stress.

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