It’s not easy being green: stress and invalidation in identity formation of culturally-complex or mixed-race individuals

It’s not easy being green: stress and invalidation in identity formation of culturally-complex or mixed-race individuals

Texas A&M University
May 2008
159 pages

Samaria Dalia Roberts Perez

Submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies of Texas A&M University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of MASTER OF ARTS

This is an exploratory study to examine a population which has not been widely researched, mixed-race or “culturally-complex” individuals and identification. In the interest of this study, “culturally-complex” refers to individuals who report parents being from two or more different races/ethnicities; i.e. Black, White, Latino/Hispanic, Asian, Native-American, etc. Current literature reveals through quantitative methods that mixed-race adolescents often report more stress and are at greater health risks than most mono-racial adolescents. However, past studies have not thoroughly investigated why and how this stress exists and at times is inconsistent, which points to the need for qualitative inquiry. Although most of the previous literature focuses on mixed-race adolescents, this study focused on an adult population. Study participants were recruited through snowball sampling for in-depth, open-ended interviews. The data was analyzed by searching for common themes that illustrate the possible causes for stress in culturally-complex individuals.

Though this study cannot be representational of all culturally-complex individuals it did provide for noteworthy findings. Race and ethnicity, and particularly being culturally-complex are topics that are often not spoken about in the family or between siblings. In general, culturally-complex individuals are not provided with space for dialogue and so thus, having a place to voice ideas, experiences, and opinions was appreciated by all participants. In all interviews, frustration and confusion was expressed towards box-checking. Though stress and invalidation was inconsistent in past literature surrounding mixed-race and culturally-complex individuals, only some participants in this study reported stress and invalidation, while other participants did not report having ever experienced stress or invalidation. While literature had posed that often culturally-complex individuals would identify with the ethnicity of the father, in this study most of those who identified as one culture over another had identified as the ethnicity of the mother. Participants additionally had ―hierarchies of identities‖ where being culturally-complex was not always their most important role. Future research should examine populations from different socioeconomic groups and other demographics.

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