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Multiculturalism and Social Work | San Francisco State University

Racial identity development in biracial individuals: An analysis of therapists' accounts of psychosocial and psychological factors.

Author: Gleason, Diana Jean
Author Background: California School Of Professional Psychology - Berkeley/Alameda, US
Date 7/2000
Type Dissertation
Journal Title: Dissertation-Abstracts-International:-Section-B:-The-Sciences-and-Engineering
Volume/Pages Vol 61(1-B): 530
Subject Matter Research, Biracial, Ethnic-Identity; *Interracial-Offspring; *Psychogenesis-; *Psychosocial-Factors; *Self-Concept
Abstract The purpose of this study was to explore the contributions of psychosocial and psychological factors in the biracial persons' racial identity development. The predominant perspective of the existing biracial literature is ecosystemic and has focused mainly on psychosocial factors. While these factors are important to consider, an area that has not been addressed in the literature is the contribution of the individual's unique psychology in racial identity. A qualitative study, of semi-structured interviews, was conducted with three psychotherapists who have worked with biracial individuals in insight-oriented treatments. Therapists were asked to talk about their work with one to two of their biracial patients and share their experiences and impressions of particular themes related to biracial identity, including psychosocial factors and psychological factors such as transference, countertransference, object-relations, intrapsychic conflicts, developmental issues, defensive style, and trauma. Four cases were discussed. The findings supported the literature's suggestion of the general influence of the following psychosocial factors on biracial identity: family, extended family, community, peers, school, personal cultural experiences, physiognomy, and historical and socio-political factors. Several other key psychosocial factors emerged that seemed to impact biracial identity formation including, criticism from others regarding culturally appropriate behaviors. The study explored and supported additional areas to consider in future research on biracial identity: (a) experiences with new family members through re-marriage; (b) roles of dating, partnering, spouse, and parent; (c) socio-economic status; (d) acculturation and assimilation; (e) language; (f) gender roles; and (g) media. The biracial persons' relationships with each of their parents, trauma, and how early life experiences are internalized and managed, including how these experiences shape object-relations, conflicts, and what defenses are employed, were shown to be psychological variables in this study that could have an impact on racial identification. Relationships beyond the family seemed to be ways in which the meaning of one's biracial heritage can be recapitulated. Object-relations theory was extended and applied to the process of racial identity formation. The limitations of this study, including its small sample size and its clinical population are discussed. Recommendations for future research and clinician implications for treating biracial persons are presented. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2000 APA, all rights reserved)