Ethnic and American identity development: A developmental systems approach

Alan Meca, Florida International University


Given the role ethnic identity has as a protective factor against the effects of marginalization and discrimination (Umaña-Taylor, 2011), research longitudinally examining ethnic identity has become of increased importance. However, successful identity development must incorporate elements from both one's ethnic group and from the United States (Berry, 1980). Despite this, relatively few studies have jointly evaluated ethnic and American identity (Schwartz et al., 2012). The current dissertation, guided by three objectives, sought to address this and several other gaps in the literature. First, psychometric properties of the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM) and the American Identity Measure (AIM) were evaluated. Secondly, the dissertation examined growth trends in recently immigrated Hispanic adolescents' and their caregivers' ethnic and American identity. Lastly, the relationship between adolescents' and caregivers' ethnic and American identity was evaluated. The study used an archival sample consisting of 301 recently immigrated Hispanic families collected from Miami (N = 151) and Los Angeles (N = 150). Consistent with previous research, results in Study 1 indicated a two-factor model reliably provided better fit than a one-factor model and established longitudinal invariance for the MEIM and the AIM. Results from Study 2 found significant growth in adolescents' American identity. While some differences were found across site and nationality, evidence suggested recently immigrated Hispanic adolescents were becoming more bicultural. Counterintuitively, results found a significant decline in caregivers' ethnic identity which future studies should further examine. Finally, results from Study 3, found several significant positive relationships between adolescents' and their caregivers' ethnic and American identity. Findings provided preliminary evidence for the importance of examining identity development within a systemic lens. Despite several limitations, these three studies represented a step forward in addressing the current gaps in the cultural identity literature. Implications for future investigation are discussed.

Subject Area

American studies|Developmental psychology|Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

Meca, Alan, "Ethnic and American identity development: A developmental systems approach" (2014). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3632536.