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Ethnic Identity and African Americans

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Ethnic Identity and African Americans

Ethnic Identity

Ethnic identity is the sum total of group member feelings about those values, symbols, and common histories that identify them as a distinct group (Smith 1991). Development of ethnic identity is important because it helps one to come to terms with their ethnic membership as a prominent reference group and significant part of an individuals overall identity. Ethnic reference group refers to an individuals psychological relatedness to groups (Smith 1991). These reference groups help adolescents sense, reflect and see things from the point of their ethnic groups in which they actively participate or seek to participate.

What is ethnic identity?

The establishment of identity is an important, complex task for all adolescents, and is considered a major developmental task for all adolescents. It is particularly complicated for adolescents belonging to ethnic and minority groups. Ethnic identity of the majority group of individuals is constantly validated and reinforced in a positive manner where as the minority group is constantly ridiculed and punished in a negative manner. What does this say for those adolescents who are the minority and not the majority? It is important to study or research ethnic identity because it provides better knowledge to help one understand striving for a sense of unity and connectivenesss in which the self provides meaning for direction and meaning of ethnic identity (Spencer, 1990). It is also important to study or research the differences between these groups due to beliefs and values.

Adolescents that are the minority are confronted with their ethnicity at an earlier age then Caucasian adolescents majority and they are constantly aware of ethnic differences, which means it is of greater importance to understand the development of the minority individual. It should lead to different assessments when it comes to ethnic identity. For example, African American adolescents are psychologically compared to Caucasian American adolescence diagnoses, which are sometimes inaccurately assessed. Bronfenberner explains the theoretical perspective such as the ecological perspective by saying, The implications for clinical treatment of African American adolescents, mental health workers must be sensitive to the ecological context of their clients. Mental Health workers must realize that there is no single entity called the black family . The black families compared to the other families established their American family. He suggests that these families vary dramatically in backgrounds, social economic status, values, and degree of acculturation to the norms and values of mainstream America (1990). There are also, significant differences that may exist in preparation of African American adolescent, at the level of rearing family practices and in schools (1990). That is, schools continue to reflect historical values that deal with racial-stereotypes and prejudice and beliefs. At the same time there are families trying to avoid and make light out of such situations. These families and communities continue to show constancy by instilling their own beliefs and values through child rearing which maybe different from Caucasian Americas.

Identity and ethnicity as adolescent issues

Identity has been defined in many ways. It is the concept used to describe an individual's sense of who he or she is (Dashefsky and Shapiro, 1976). Changes in identity occur throughout the life cycle, however, the changes in identity are usually most notable during adolescence. Integrating a positive sense of ethnic identity into one's overall personal identity is an important task of late adolescence (Steinberg, 1996).

Ethnic identity has been defined as the aspect of one's

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