A Phenomenological Study of the Life Experiences of Biracial Adolescents

A Phenomenological Study of the Life Experiences of Biracial Adolescents

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
September 7, 2004
86 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3177441
ISBN: 9780542168468

Nicole Alease Tefera

A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Psychology

The “biracial baby boom” (Root, 1996, p. xv) in the United States started approximately 25 years ago around the time the final laws against miscegenation were repealed by the United States Supreme Court 1967 decision (Loving v. Virginia, 1967). After the historical ruling, the number of children being born to parents with different racial backgrounds tripled from less than 400,000 in 1970 to 1.5 million in 1990 (Wright, 1994). The emergence of a racially mixed population is rapidly changing the face of the United States causing Americans to ask questions related to our identity such as: (a) Who are we?, (b) How do we see ourselves?, and (c) Who are we in relation to one another? These questions originate in a country that has maintained particular views of race and one that subscribed to race as a fixed construct, perceived itself as White, and has been dedicated to preserving racial lines. Therefore, the questions posed in relation to race and identity can only be expected to contribute to an identity crisis that this country is unprepared to resolve. Resolving the identity crisis may force Americans to reexamine our construction of race and the hierarchal social order it supports (Root, 1992).

During the past two decades, interracial marriages have produced biracial children, many of whom are now adolescents and young adults, located primarily in urban areas in the East, the Midwest, and the West Coast (Gibbs, 1987). According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there are approximately 6.8 million individuals in this country who identify as two or more races (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). However, no reliable estimates of Black-White youth are available. Based on the current statistics of Black-White marriages, it can only be hypothesized that these unions produce nearly one-fourth of biracial children in the United States of America. The dual racial identity of a biracial adolescent is likely to pose a challenge in the development of a cohesive, well-integrated self-concept.

This phenomenological study explored the life experiences of six biracial adolescents (Travis, Karen, Shelly, Michael, Erin, and Ayana) of European American and African American decent living in both the inner city and surrounding suburbs of a large urban city located in the Midwest. Data was analyzed horizontally and vertically to ascertain the meanings of being biracial, specifically during adolescence. Themes emerged with respect to the participants’ ethnic/racial identification, experiences in adolescence, social influences, and racial resemblance.

This study revealed tasks for identity formation and biracial identity development during adolescence. Participants in this study clearly struggled with normal adolescent identity formation while simultaneously attempting to integrate their dual racial heritage. As with identity formation models, peer influences were most influential in how participants’ identified themselves. Therefore, one can hypothesize that biracial identity development and identity formation are not mutually exclusive. With respect to clinical implications, this theory offers the assumption that treatment interventions should focus on helping the adolescent to effectively navigate through normal identity formation while simultaneously addressing conflict surrounding their dual racial/ethnic background.

Table of Contents

  • Copyright.
  • Signature Page.
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abstract
  • List of Tables
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
    • Statement of Topic
    • Rationale for the Study
  • Chapter 2: Literature Review
    • Identity Formation in Adolescence
    • Racial/Ethnic Identity Development
    • Biracial Identity Development
    • Models of Biracial Identity Development
    • Review of Research on Biracial Youth and Young Adults
  • Chapter 3: Methodology
    • Methodology and Participants
    • Procedures
    • Analysis
  • Chapter 4: Presentation of Data Analysis
    • Participant #2: Travis
    • Participant #3: Karen
    • Participant #4: Shelly
    • Participant #5: Michael
    • Participant #6: Erin
    • Participant #7: Ayana
    • Composite Description of Participant Interviews
  • Chapter 5 Summary, Implications, and Outcomes
    • Emerging Themes
    • Limitations of the Study
  • References
  • Appendix A: Demographic Questionnaire
  • Appendix B: Study Participant (ages 12-17) Assent Form
  • Appendix C: Study Participant (Age 18) Informed Consent Form
  • Appendix D: Parent Informed Consent Form
  • Appendix E: Interview Guide
  • Appendix F: Advertisement

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