Summary / Abstract

Title: Young, Black, and female: the challenge of weaving an identity

Synopsis: This is an exploratory qualitative study of the experience of identity in late adolescent African-American women. Using a semi-structured interview, 17 18- to 22-year-old community college students were interviewedabout how they see their identity and about the personal salience of various identity domains—race, gender, sexualorientation, relationships, career, religious beliefs, and political beliefs. It was found that these seven ego identity domainsvaried in importance, with racial identity as the most salient, while the domains of gender, relationships, and career were alsoimportant sources of identity. A sense of “strength” also emerged as an important element of self-definition.Particular attention is paid to the intersection of racial and gender identity for these African—American women who mustevolve a sense of self within the context of a society that devalues Blacks and women. African American, gender, adolescent, racial identity, female, identity domains, strength, religious beliefs, ego identity, self definition, student, interview, importance, career, salient, political beliefs, race gender, Young Black, sexual orientation, college students, Chanell Washington, identity development, exploratory, psychology, community college, identity formation, intersection, identities, ethnic identity, personal salience,

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journal adolescence 1996 19 465 475 young black female challenge weaving identity kumea shorter gooden n chanell washington exploratory qualitative study experience identity late adolescent african american women semi structured interview 17 18 22 year old community college students interviewed see identity personal salience identity domains race gender sexual orientation relationships career religious beliefs political beliefs found seven ego identity domains varied importance racial identity salient domains gender relationships career important sources identity sense strength emerged important element self definition particular attention paid intersection racial gender identity african american women evolve sense self context society devalues blacks women 1996 association professionals services adolescents introduction african american female adolescent growing united states poses particular challenges young black females contend typical adolescent developmental tasks context society devalues blacks women hooks 1981 reid 1988 adolescence time consolidates sense identity erikson 1968 based ethnicity gender develop identity integrates healthy sense blackness femaleness demanding greater understanding identity development process young black women helpful furthering knowledge mental health challenges successes african american female adolescents adults end focus first establishing context african american women live exploring issue identity development relates group context african american women united states develop identity racist sexist historically african american women distinction group enslaved brought united states work produce reproduce almquist 1995 p 577 legacy racism sexism slavery continues today hooks 1981 numerous social scientists spoken continued dual oppression black women face racism sexism e g beale 1970 murray 1970 hare hare 1972 staples 1973 giddings 1984 reid 1988 triple oppression based race gender class group contends disproportionately members lower socioeconomic statuses e g murray 1970 hare hare 1972 almquist 1995 reprint requests correspondence addressed k shorter gooden ph d california school professional psychology los angeles 1000 fremont avenue alhambra california 91803 1360 u 0140 1971 96 05046511 18 00 0 1996 association professionals services adolescents 466 k shorter gooden n chanell washington income black women u lags far incomes anglo men black men anglo women differences levels education controlled horton smith 1993 oppression african american women evident economic sphere evident fact socially devalued hooks 1981 reid 1988 greene 1990 greene notes american society devalues women women white women idealized black women assigned subordinate status african american women represent antithesis considered american female beauty reid 1988 cases devaluation black women takes form active assaults demonstrated fact black women victims criminal assault rape white women horton smith 1993 times devaluation african american women takes form disregard neglect myers 1989 points black female adolescents ignored invisible strengths problems receive little attention black community serve buffer african american women impact racism sexism barnes 1980 described larger societal context surrounds women develop identity formation sense identity ego identity seen erikson 1968 primary developmental task adolescent years identity self definition comprised goals values beliefs person committed provide sense continuity time erikson identity reflects variety chosen commitments integrally tied ascribed characteristics like race gender marcia 1966 operationalized erikson identity development concepts developed semi structured interview assess participants experience crisis development commitments areas occupation political religious ideology notably chosen ascribed domains past three decades numerous empirical studies marcia framework conducted identity development relationship ego identity development emotional see reviews marcia 1980 waterman 1985 erikson 1968 initial formulations women identity focused womb inner space presumed centrality roles wife mother development women identity erikson critiqued widely male centered view women identity franz white 1985 similarly marcia identity interview modified years seen original male centered focus domains occupation religion politics current inclusion questions sexual interpersonal attitudes seen important women patterson et al 1992 increased attention years gender issues relevant women study ego identity focus gender differences identity domains salient women contrast men alternative identity domains importance women see matteson 1993 experience gender gender identity words concept oneself women little studied female devalued society women handle integrate notion woman identity important area exploration substantial attention gender issues ego identity development studies utilizing erikson marcia model looked identity african american adolescents shorter 1978 phinney tarver 1988 aries 467 young black female moorehead 1989 phinney 1989 phinney alipuria 1990 watson protinsky 1991 study aries moorehead 1989 focused connection racial identity identity domains e g occupation sexualinterpersonal attitudes gets sense ego identity youth aries moorehead study black junior senior high school students found ethnic racial identity important identity domain teens sense identity study gender issues differences highlighted research ego identity african americans recent minimal concern black racial identity long history stemming notably kenneth mamie clark doll studies color preference young black children clark clark 1947 see cross 1991 review theory research black identity 1970s 1980s number models black racial identity developed william cross stage theory nigrescence centerpiece subsequent research area helms 1990 cross 1971 theorized found evidence negro black transformation depicts process racial identity formation late adolescent years recent researchers found formation sense black racial identity important element psychological development african american adolescents young adults parham 1989 positively related emotional parham helms 1985a b work provides theoretical bridge erikson marcia ego identity framework black racial identity model phinney associates made findings african american adolescents black girls ethnic racial identity salient aspect identity phinney tarver 1988 phinney alipuria 1990 related psychological phinney 1989 research cross phinney models focused gender issues specific identity challenges girls women recently myers associates myers et al 1991 reynolds pope 1991 developed model identity formation people members multiple oppressed groups like black female cross phinney models focus solely ascribed groupderived identities ego identity general reflects ascribed chosen elements studies erikson marcia model explore ego identity african american adolescents number studies cross phinney models explore racial ethnic identity black adolescents published studies focused specific ego identity issues african american women shorter gooden 1992 evidence black female adolescents racial identity important source self definition little known little known african american women weave identity comprised attitudes feelings blacks women unique individuals reviewed studies quantitative approach little known african american women talk depict identity exploratory study aimed generating hypotheses ego identity late adolescent african american women addition general exploratory goal specifically interested investigating 1 extent racial gender identity central components identity two societally devalued sources identity dealt identity formation 2 identity domains i e race gender sexual orientation relationships career religious beliefs political beliefs salient 468 k shorter gooden n chanell washington women quality investment domains 3 late adolescent african american women characterize portray identity method exploratory nature study qualitative interview strategy adopted qualitative designs useful exploratory research areas little known patton 1990 data collected spring 1993 authors doctoral student psychology african american women participants 17 african american females ages 18 22 students southern california community college approximately tenth student body black women recruited office student activities campus black student alliance data collected individual sessions 40 75 minutes held campus participants completed brief demographic questionnaire semi structured identity interview developed piloted study administered audiotaped interview question think identity comes mind important aspects identity followed important aspect identity specific probes seven domains concern i e race gender career religious beliefs political beliefs relationships sexual orientation participants asked religious beliefs religious beliefs important aspect identity participants asked think mentioned important aspect identity people experiences influenced identity formation demographic characteristics 17 participants follows identified black african american mother two fathers non african origin married children fifteen participants indicated heterosexual two respond question sexual orientation half indicated grown mother father approximately two thirds participants parents attended college two thirds participants reported lived life predominantly african american neighborhoods proportion indicated attending present college attended schools racially mixed time interview two living parent ten women members college black student alliance analyse data interviews transcribed coded independently authors seven identity domains important self definition participant inter rater reliability 93 authors read re read interview transcripts order 1 examine quality woman investment domains words importance area 2 examine different identity domains intersected 3 identify prominent themes issues results asked ambiguous question think identity 469 young black female comes mind eleven participants indicated african american black six said woman female five gave response word strong volunteer responses asked specifically black african american important aspect identity participant indicated comparable question gender identity 17 indicated figures indicate number women considered additional areas important aspects identity relationship identity 14 career identity 11 religious identity 7 sexual orientation 6 political identity 4 women indicated gender identity important aspect identity comments ways gender identity important suggest gender identity salient appeared women little say gender important woman said i guess female important hmm i m sure hard explain i think important i know participants connected female identity african american identity time i think hard african american woman call double negative black woman hard i feel stronger i know i i see stop getting i go color gender notably participant mentioned terms feminist feminism discussion gender identity racial identity important aspect participants identities evidenced number said important lengthy discussions cases meaning african american variation women examined focused racial identity issues excerpts two women appeared struggled actively issues i d say i m african american i m black connection land knowing i come i think africa i think great kingdoms stuff lets identify important society sees african american females getting pregnant kind thing welfare i go school i graduated i don t babies i think makes different color identity different exemplified first excerpt women black identity connection african african american heritage culture talked identity based need overcome negative aspects black second excerpt latter instance black struggling negative stereotypes case celebrating ancestry cases positive sense black identity blackness seen inherently positive struggling society negative views blacks impelled woman work harder accomplish goals sample exceptions woman asked black african american important aspect identity said i don t think woman said black important little say 470 k shorter gooden n chanell washington aspect identity i am i see i look mirror i don t know i think mentioned five women volunteered word strong response initial question identity review transcripts revealed 13 17 participants mentioned term strong stronger strength interview cases terms dozen times interview strength important lets define i am strength i don t get lost people i think important strength order true identity don t get caught relationships lose re stronger re black struggle constantly re different better best work harder best strength appears refer tough determined able deal adversity meets black strong sense self overrun participants conveyed felt qualities working develop qualities admired characteristics people impact identity development participants referred role models lives strong referring african american women mother relative relationship identity identity centered relationship emerged salient area women lives 14 women indicated relationships important identity 12 talked importance daughter relationship parent mother notably half women grown mother father daughter first relationship mentioned ten indicated friend important identity girlfriend male partner indicated twice two women talked importance identity wife future two spoke importance mother future participants talked length significance relationships i m daughter i make mother proud important know time i extra special makes stand makes happy i make happy i take care rough life noted earlier career identity important two thirds sample women indicated career goals couple cases women two possible career directions indicated career direction change career interests varied teacher lawyer accountant working business health mental health fields entertainment industry women talked motivation succeed academically careerwise influenced parents relatives woman talked specific career choice direct result family wishes eight half women identity focus four domains race gender relationships career women talked point interview importance strength current identity 471 young black female importance perceiving strength role models impacted identity formation seven women christian identified religious beliefs important identity learning knowing i know mistreatment blacks make angry make aggressive damaging things i spiritual beliefs i believe anger shouldn t character helps focus spiritual beliefs help channel know okay put fine happened happening need go need help situation woman religious identity integrally connected racial identity two women religious identity appeared identity domain important lives regards sexual orientation political beliefs six participants indicated sexual orientation important identity comments response question limited brief eight participants responded question political beliefs four indicated political beliefs important identity summary findings self definition sample african american women composed identity domains vary importance racial identity salient gender identity important salient racial identity addition women sense identity based relationships career goals little half felt religious beliefs central identity considered sexual orientation political beliefs salient aspects identity note women felt quality strength central identity discussion keeping recent literature african american adolescents young adults parham helms 1985a b phinney tarver 1988 aries moorehead 1989 parham 1989 phinney 1989 phinney alipuria 1990 racial identity salient central aspect women self definition race area source self definition women women varied experience racial identity salient actively struggled issues racial identity content racial identity beliefs attitudes despite variations general women positive feelings black suggests societal context racism contribute salience racial identity automatically mean resultant identity mirror societal views negative fact substantial number participants recruited black student alliance meeting participants college students predominantly non black institution limitations study account important racial identity sense identity gender identity noted participants important aspect identity limited comments gender identity fact gender identity talked concurrently racial identity suggest salient issues 472 k shorter gooden n chanell washington race ways group committed gender source identity unevolved foreclosed vis vis gender issues number hypotheses arise connection finding possibility issues addressed sequence identity challenges erikson 1968 talks identity formation late adolescent phenomenon recent researchers considering process identity formation extended process early adolescence early middle adulthood josselson 1987 fujino king 1994 speculate women color develop sense racial identity first sense gender identity second related hypothesis active work gender issues important african american women work racial issues racial issues demand attention survival gender exploration essential racism potent force sexism black women lives giddings 1984 integrating active conscious sense blackness active conscious sense womanness challenging phinney 1993 suggests difficult integrate multiple group identities norms values groups inconsistent reid 1988 sees racial identity gender identity conflicting demands create double bind black women p 213 sample active struggle racial contrast gender identity issues reflection difficulty late adolescence integrating two inharmonious identities hypothesis work gender issues done virtue women incorporating basic sense feminism foremothers scott 1991 robinson 1985 talk black women original feminists interviewee term feminist comments aspirations conveyed sense valued people felt achieve minds come sense inferiority based gender sense needed taken care rescued men feminist sensibility minus lingo feminism characterizes women support notion finding importance meaningful relationships women women lives relationships fact important women identities relationships helped define identity women finding diverges sharply erikson 1968 early notions woman identity develops based identity male partners finding converges growing body research ego identity anglo women indicates interpersonal concerns important identity formation patterson et al 1992 finding fits body theory research women stresses importance connection contrast separation development miller 1991 developing literature importance sense communion relatedness people african origin helps make sense finding myers 1988 akbar 1989 identity domains religious beliefs political beliefs sexual orientation importance minority group religious political commitments chosen sexual orientation like race gender ascribed identity two participants identified heterosexual identified lesbian 473 young black female bisexual heterosexuality seen central society predominantly heterosexual biased heterosexuality identity formation heterosexual limited salience people struggling two identities devalued black female striking findings emergence notion strength personal characteristic trait central issue women identities number writers speak strength black women murray 1970 ladner 1972 robinson 1985 kesho scott 1991 discussion depth interviews middle aged african american women emphasizes relevance jacqueline jones 1985 comment black women fall back maleness whiteness ladyhood hypothesis sense strength key self definition survival fall back black woman forced survive sexist racist society sense strength important coping mechanism african american women findings study interpreted caution limited select college student sample advantage qualitative study small sample flexibility investigate relatively unexplored phenomena open ended manner disadvantage difficulty generalizing findings broader population case late adolescent african american women number interesting hypotheses arise study suggest 1 african american women develop sense strength reaction struggling two ascribed identities race gender devalued alternatively racism sexism african american woman perceives likely identity sense strength 2 late adolescent african american women sense strength serves buffer mediating variable challenges stress racism sexism 3 late adolescent african american women identity sense strength psychologically healthier identity dosen t sense strength 4 gender identity central concern adult adolescent african american women 5 african american women engage active exploration gender issues engaged active exploration racial identity issues interesting topic research relationship commitment identity domains psychological functioning women see relationships central identity emotionally healthier commitment combinations identity domains indicative greater emotional health commitment combinations additional qualitative quantitative studies larger representative samples different age cohorts shed light hypotheses research questions increase understanding african american women weave identity tapestry context racist sexist society acknowledgements like thank lashaun turner ph d assistance conducting study article based presentation american psychological association convention los angeles august 1994 474 k shorter gooden n chanell washington references akbar n 1989 nigrescence identity limitations counseling psychologist 17 258 263 almquist e m 1995 experiences minority women u intersections race gender class women feminist perspective freeman j ed pp 573 606 mountain view california mayfield aries e moorehead k 1989 importance ethnicity development identity black adolescents psychological reports 65 75 82 barnes e j 1980 black community source positive self concept black children theoretical perspective black psychology 2nd edn jones r l ed pp 106 130 new 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