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  • Writer's pictureLynn VanderWielen, PhD, MPH

Parental Role in Supporting Multiracial Identity Development - Racial Socialization

Updated: Feb 22

The journey of understanding who we are and where we ‘fit’ in the world starts during our childhood. In adolescence, identity development and exploration becomes increasingly meaningful. Many studies have explored how pride* in ones racial identity is related to self-esteem and social connections amongst monoracial young adults. One study looked at how pride in one’s multiracial identity was related to improved mental health outcomes and it was found that increased pride helped to shield against negative impacts of discrimination and reduced symptoms of depression.(1)

(*Please note, when we talk about pride we are talking about love and support of one’s racial identity but NOT that one racial identity is better or worse than others or more or less deserving of love, safety, and joy).

Like most elements of our children’s development, we as parents and caregivers have a role to play in supporting our kids’ connection and pride for their complex and beautiful multiracial identities. In the scientific literature this is called Parental Racial Socialization. Many evidence-based programs emphasize healthy Parental Racial Socialization approaches for monoracial communities to protect against racial trauma and promote healthy mental health and well-being.(1) But for our multiracial families, we are often in roles where we are sharing messages about racial groups that we are not ourselves a part of.

While most work has focused on monoracial socialization, a few studies have sought to understand what works for multiracial individuals. Evidence shows that when parents and caregivers share frequent and consistent messages about pride in one’s multiracial identity in addition to understanding of, and preparation for, racism and bias, multiracial individuals have more positive feelings about their racial identity and lower conflict with the monoracial groups that they are a part of. Additionally, multiracial adults with intentional support from parents and caregivers around Racial Socialization are more likely to have deeper exploration of their heritages, pride in their identity, and a better understanding about what their race means to them.(1)

The study for today examined how 330 biracial (Black and White) adolescents in the US experience Racial Socialization and how that impacts racial identity attitudes. The findings are compelling and straight forward - children who experienced the highest frequency of intentional support from parents/caregivers and consistent messages between parents/caregivers felt the most comfortable in their racial identities, the highest sense of pride in their biracial identities, and had more empathetic attitudes around how others experience the world. These characteristics and attitudes will likely lead to long-term health and well-being, including feelings of confidence, belonging, and connection.

While there is not a ton of research on multiracial identity development, this is evidence enough for me to know that I need to be intentional and proactive to support my multiracial kids as they grow to understand who they are, who they want to be, and how they will change over time and circumstance.

But where and how to start? Join the Samahra Community in our mobile app (available on iOS and Android) for daily evidence-based reading, actionable reflection, and a place to connect with other parents like us. We are not going to be perfect or get everything right, but we are united in our dedication to our kids and want to learn more about supporting healthy multiracial identity development.

Other great resources include EmbraceRace, Dr. Jenn Noble’s Mixed-Race Academy, and Mixed In America. (We have no affiliation with these resources but we have found them to be helpful, strengths-based, and offer insightful and thoughtful information for parents and caregivers like us!).

Today’s article can be found here (while it is behind a paywall you will likely find luck emailing the authors for the full manuscript).

Citation: Green, McKenzie N., N. Keita Christophe, and Fantasy T. Lozada. "Concordant and Discordant Patterns of Parental Racial Socialization among Biracial Black-White Adolescents: Correlates and Consequences." Journal of Youth and Adolescence 51.12 (2022): 2340-2354.

(1) Christophe, N. K., Stein, G. L., & The LOVING Study Collaborative (2021). A Person-Centered Analysis of Ethnic–Racial Socialization Patterns and Their Identity Correlates in Multiracial College Students. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. Advance online publication.

Photo by Thiago Cerqueira on Unsplash

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