Self-Identification in Multiracial Individuals

Laurie Thien An Resnick, Pace University


The multiracial (i.e. people of two or more races) population in the United States has existed for centuries and is growing; yet, much is still unknown about multiracial individuals' identity development. Not much is known about which factors are predictive of the way multiracial individuals self-identify, though existing research has identified several factors that play a role in this process, including race-related physical appearance (Brunsma & Rockquemore, 2001; Rockquemore, 2002), familial relationships (Stepney et al., 2015), race-related experiences (Hall, 1992; Root, 1998; Salahuddin & O'Brien, 2011), and group membership variables (Davenport, 2016). However, these factors have not been examined together with regards to their relationship to self-identification and have not used measures specific to multiracial individuals. The current study used a mixed methods online survey to engage in a quantitative and qualitative examination of possible factors that influence self-identification and identity development in multiracial individuals 18 and older in the United States. Quantitatively, I tested whether race-related challenges unique to multiracial individuals, including challenges with racial identity, multiracial discrimination, and lack of family acceptance; parental closeness; race-related physical appearance; and demographic variables such as age, gender, SES, and racial group membership were associated with self-identification. Qualitatively, I asked participants to describe how any of the above factors influence their self-identification and identity any other factors they feel have influenced their identity development. The results of the qualitative and quantitative data indicate that race-related challenges, parental and peer closeness, race-related appearance, and group memberships were all important to the identification process, though the specific factors had with identification varied. Some race-related experiences and some group memberships (e.g. challenges with racial identity, Asian/Pacific Islander group membership) were associated with multiracial identification, while self-rated appearance was a marginal predictor of multiracial identification. Some race-related challenges and some group memberships were also associated with multiracial identity integration, conflict, and distance, while parental closeness and appearance were not. The qualitative results highlighted the complex ways in which similar experiences such as with parental closeness and physical appearance did play roles in people's identification, but in different ways for different individuals that could not be detected as a consistent pattern quantitatively. The results of this study can help to inform current understandings of racial group identities, including specifically for multiracial individuals, as well as inform clinicians about how to best help these individuals, support them through challenges involved in multiracial experiences, and understand their identity formation processes. Keywords: appearance, biracial, ethnicity, identity, mixed, mixed-race, multiracial, race, parental closeness

Subject Area

Psychology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Resnick, Laurie Thien An, "Self-Identification in Multiracial Individuals" (2020). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI28289016.



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