Racial Identity: Choices, Context, and Consequences



Greater public visibility, growing social acceptance, and institutional recognition have opened up the opportunity for many contemporary biracial individuals to choose from a variety of racial identity options. Although macro-level (e.g., legal) barriers have all but disappeared, microlevel challenges (e.g., multiracial microaggressions) still persist for some in the growing biracial population. Thus, it is important to understand how racial identity options are exercised differently within and across particular social contexts, and how these options in turn affect biracial individuals’ development. In this chapter, first we discuss theory and research on racial identity and identification among contemporary biracial people, followed by a brief review of work on the contextual factors that influence racial identity formation in this population. Next, we explore extant research on the association of racial identity to a host of developmental outcomes (e.g., depression, self-esteem, psychological well-being, life satisfaction). In recognition of the heterogeneous nature of the biracial population, we review, where available, research for specific biracial subgroups (e.g., Black-White, Latino-White, and Asian-White). Drawing on relevant theory and empirical findings, we will then make specific recommendations on how to support biracial children’s racial identity formation and social-emotional development and on how to enhance biracial adults’ functioning. Finally, we summarize important gaps in current research and identify needed directions for future research.


Racial identity Social context Developmental diversity Psychosocial adjustment Academic adjustment Health behaviors Racial identity Contextual influences 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Human Development and Family StudiesUniversity of ConnecticutStamfordUSA
  2. 2.Clinical Mental Health CounselingSouthern Connecticut State UniversityNew HavenUSA

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