Seven essential facts about multiracial youth
Author: Astrea Greig
I have learned a vast amount of information about the multiracial population while completing my dissertation on multiracial adolescents and young adults. Some of these things I did not previously know even though I am multiracial myself. The following are seven vital topics that may interest all who work with this population.
- Until federally overturned in 1967, most U.S. states banned marriages and relationships between White and non-White people. Biracial and multiracial children were thus once considered illicit results of such illegal marriages and relationships (Root, 1996).
- The multiracial child and adolescent population in the U.S. is growing rapidly with a 32 percent increase in 2010 since the previous U.S. census (Humes, Jones, & Ramirez, 2011). Multiracial children are now the largest demographic group among U.S. citizens under the age of 18 (Saulny, 2011). This tremendous growth is because mixed marriages and families are at an all time high (Chen, 2010).
- Multiracial youth and mixed families often experience unique types of discrimination and microaggressions. Among the multiple types, one is exclusion or isolation in which multiracial people are excluded due to their mixed status. For example, an Asian and white biracial child may not be treated as equally as his or her monoracial siblings or cousins at family gatherings by disapproving distant relatives. Another type is assumption of being monoracial or mistaken identity. For example, a child at a school telling jokes targeted toward black Americans to a biracial black and white child. The child assumes the biracial child is white and therefore feels it is "okay" to say the jokes, which are actually offensive to the biracial child (Johnston & Nadal, 2010). These unique stressors can affect the well-being of a multiracial person (Salahuddin & O'Brien 2011; Sanchez, 2010; Shih & Sanchez, 2005).
- Multiracial children are also often subject to institutional discrimination from government, private and public organizations. Many schools do not permit multiracial students to choose more than one race on demographic forms (Renn, 2009; Sanchez, 2010; Townsend, Markus, & Bergsieker, 2009). This lack of control in being able to properly self identify has been shown to affect one's mental health (Sanchez, 2010; Townsend, Markus, & Bergsieker, 2009).
- Despite large growth, the multiracial population still comprises a very small fraction of the U.S. population (Humes, Jones, & Ramirez, 2011). Moreover, multiracial people in the media are often depicted as monoracial (CNPAAEMI, 2009; Dalmage, 2000; Shih & Sanchez, 2005). As a result of the small population and lack of media representation, multiracial youth may feel that they do not have a multiracial community and lack role models to help them understand their mixed identity (Dalmage, 2000; Shih & Sanchez, 2005). Multiracial role models are thus extremely helpful for mixed children and teens (Shih & Sanchez, 2005). Moreover, having a community of others with a mixed racial and/or ethnic background has shown to help improve psychological well-being (Iijima Hall, 2004; Sanchez & Garcia, 2009).
- Children and adolescents may benefit from developing positive views of their multiracial identity as research with adults show that an integrated multiracial identity is a protective factor that helps psychological well-being (Jackson et al., 2012). Adolescents who do not have a stable racial identity show lower self-esteem (Sanchez et al., 2009). As such, it is vital for mixed race families to speak to their biracial or multiracial children about their mixed race and foster pride in their background. Likewise, if parents cannot or do not provide this support, clinicians, school counselors and mentors can be of great service to multiracial children by helping them feel proud of their identity. Additionally, it would be helpful to provide multiracial children education on different identity stages and/or stressors they may face and how to cope with difficult situations.
- Multiracial children and adolescents are resilient. Researchers show that multiracial identity increases an appreciation and empathy for cultural diversity among others (Shih & Sanchez, 2009). Moreover, multiracial adolescents and young adults are less likely to be subject to stereotype threat that causes poor performance on tasks. This may be because the multiracial participants are more likely to understand that race is not biological, but rather, is a social construct (Shih et al., 2007).
Chen, S. (2010, June 4). Interracial marriages at an all-time high, study says. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/06/04/pew.interracial.marriage/
Council of National Psychological Associations for the Advancement of Ethnic Minority Interests. (2009). Psychology education and training from a culture-specific and multiracial perspectives: Critical issues and recommendations. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Dalmage, H. M. (2000). Tripping on the color line: Black-White multiracial families in a racially divided world. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Humes, K, R., Jones, N. A., & Ramirez, R. R. (2011). Overview of race and Hispanic origin: 2010. 2010 Census Briefs. U.S Department of Commerce. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau.
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Townsend, S. S. M., Markus, H. R., & Bergsieker, H. B. (2009). My choice, your categories: The denial of multiracial identities. Journal of Social Issues, (65)1, 185-204.
Astrea Greig, MA, completed her dissertation which examined substance abuse levels among multiracial and monoracial young adults in relation to their experiences with perceived discrimination. She recently finished her predoctoral internship at Yale School of Medicine working in an acute inpatient unit and will attend her commencement ceremony from the clinical psychology program at the University of Hartford this fall. She will also soon start a postdoctoral fellowship in psychosocial rehabilitation at the Edith Nourse Roger's VAMC in Bedford, Mass. She attends multidisciplinary conferences regarding the mixed race population and multiracial community.