Acknowledging the growing population of multiracial youth and families

This CYF issue illustrates the emerging trend, examining the population stressors, individual and familial mechanisms related to racial socialization processes and influences of society and culture.

Author: Laurie “Lali” McCubbin, PhD

The fastest growing youth group in the country is multiracial children, which has increased almost 50 percent to 4.2 million since 2000 (Saulny, 2011). The overall population for multiracial individuals from 2000 to 2010 grew from 6.8 million to 9.0 million people, representing 2.9 percent of the country’s population. This issue of the Children, Youth and Family newsletter acknowledges this emerging and growing population and the needs facing individuals, families and communities to assist in the promotion of healthy multiracial identity development. The construct of multiraciality and multiethnicity are not new to the scientific field. However it has been kept on the margin particularly in relation to public policy and interventions given the politics surrounding racial purity and public discomfort in recognizing interracial marriages and multiethnic children. The range of reactions to the depiction of a multiracial family with a biracial child in a Cheerios commercial from hatred to celebration supports the notion that we are in a state of transition when it comes to the face of America’s children.

It becomes clear upon further examination of the 2010 US Census data (Jones & Bullock, 2012; 2013), that multiracial individuals and their respective growth in this country varies depending on the racial mixture. For example, people identifying as black and white grew by 134 percent from 2000 to 2010, representing the largest multiracial group at 1.8 million. The second largest group was White and some other race, representing 1.7 million. People identifying as White and Asian consisted of 1.6 million, with an increase in growth of 87 percent since 2000. The fourth largest group consisted of White, American Indian/Alaska Native, numbering around 1.4 million with an increase of 32 percent in the past ten years. Interestingly, the White and some other race category actually decreased by half a million people, or roughly 21 percent (Jones & Bullock, 2013). All four of these racial combinations consist of almost three fourths of the total multiracial population in the US (Jones & Bullock, 2013). The four articles in this newsletter represent these growing populations with Swanson and Stone focusing on black and white families, Kasuga-Jenks focusing on White-Asian families and McNeill representing the emerging White-AI/AN population of Mestizo individuals.

The majority of theory and research on multiracial individuals have focused primarily on racial identity development. This body of work encompasses the developmental stages or phases of identity development, the ecological factors such as family, school and community that help shape, form and in some cases hinder multiracial identity expression, and the relationship of identity development to other psychological factors such as self-esteem and/or risk and protective processes. These theories and the respective empirical research indicates that multiraciality is deeply embedded in monoracial contexts and that multiracial individuals engage in various coping strategies to navigate and negotiate their multiple heritages in their respective families, communities and society as a whole. Movement in the multiracial field has occurred since the seminal work of Root (1992, 1996) shifting the foci from theories and research on multiracial identity development to specific examination of the interaction between ecological contexts and their respective influences in shaping and defining multiracial identity and corresponding racial socialization processes at the individual, familial and community levels.

The four articles in this newsletter illustrate this emerging trend including examining the stressors multiracial children and families encounter, the individual and familial mechanisms related to racial socialization processes and the macrolevel influences of society and culture that interplay with the negotiation and development of multiracial identities. Swanson (2013) points out the constant questioning of multiracial individuals about their racial mixture and the concept of “race switch” as a coping mechanism across contexts including family, education and society. Kasuga-Jenks (2013) focuses on interracial families of Asian and European American backgrounds highlighting parent/child communication related to race and ethnicity.

Stone (2013) illustrates the discrimination and pressure of black/white biracial children to choose a monoracial category and the processes of family influence and negotiating identity outside of the family. Stone provides suggestions for working with multiracial families in clinical settings and the need for assessment of family members’ perspectives on the transmission of race and racial identity. Additionally, McNeill defines the Mestizo identity and related worldview, providing a holistic perspective and the focus on indigenous forms of healing inclusive of unity and harmony with each other, the land and one’s spiritual world. Strengths can be drawn from various worldviews within multiracial families to assist in the promotion and healthy development of multiracial children. Additionally these family processes can provide insight and lessons learned in negotiating race and culture at an interpersonal level that can be potentially applied to multiple contexts including schools, communities and government.


Jones, N.A., & Bullock, J.J..  (2012).  The two or more races population: 2010 (PDF, 2.2MB). (C2010BR-13).  Retrieved on June 21, 2013.

Jones, N.A., & Bullock, J. J.  (2013).  Understanding who reported multiple races in the U.S. Decennial Census:  Results from Census 2000 and the 2010 Census.  Family Relations, 62(1), 5-16.

Saulny, S.  (2011, March 24).  Census data presents rise in multiracial population of youthsNew York Times. Retrieved on July 1, 2013.

Author bio

Laurie “Lali” McCubbin, PhDLaurie “Lali” McCubbin, PhD, is an associate professor at Washington State University in counseling psychology. She conducts research on risk and protective factors and resilience among indigenous peoples and people of color, adaptation among families and across the lifespan and cultural identity development. She is the executive director of the Stress, Coping, and Resilience Project: Individuals, Families, and Communities and the co-director of the Pacific Northwest Center for Mestizo and Indigenous Research and Outreach.