Identities and Health Outcomes for Biracial and Bicultural Individuals

Awarded Scholars:
Diana T. Sanchez, Rutgers University
Sarah E. Gaither, Duke University
Project Date:
Nov 2016
Award Amount:
$33,701

Membership in multiple racial groups presents a choice in identification. For example, a biracial Asian/white individual may choose to identify as Asian, white, or both Asian and white. Because they fall in between standard mono-racial group categories, biracial Americans are typically not seen as whites. Therefore, having a biracial identity may lead to identity denial—the failure of others to recognize an important social identity (in this case, the “white” identity).

Psychologists Diana Sanchez and Sarah Gaither will examine the role identity denial plays for the growing biracial population. They will focus on the experiences of racial identity denial among Asian/white biracial individuals, using Asian American bicultural individuals as a comparison group. Pilot data collected by the investigators on Rutgers University students finds that 86% of biracial students experience racial identity denial and 98% percentage of Asian bicultural students report experiences of cultural identity denial. For bicultural individuals, American identity is often denied with questions such as, “Where are you really from?” or “Do you speak English?” Similarly, biracial identity is often denied in social interactions where, for example, biracial Asian/white individuals are told that they cannot claim a white or biracial identity and are also often asked “What are you?” due to their racially-ambiguous appearance. The investigators will assess the extent to which biracial individuals who report greater experiences of identity denial also report greater distress because they experience lower identity autonomy (the ability to freely choose and express their authentic self and identity to others) and sense of belonging. 

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