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Ethnic identity development in multi-ethnic people of color: Perceived parental influence, experience, and meaning-making

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Tania E Lao-Arthur
Abstract:
The primary purpose of this study was to capture a more profound understanding of the term ethnicity by elucidating the process of ethnic identity development for the multi-ethnic person of color. Many studies over the last 20 to 30 years have examined ethnicity by isolating, and determining the effects of, various components of the construct. Very few studies have focused on personal experiences related to ethnic identity and its development as a locus for a deeper understanding of term ethnicity. This study focuses on individual experiences and understanding of the process of ethnic identity development - that is, how ethnic identity unfolds over time, as a product of social influences, and within social contexts. The clarification of this developmental process took place through an inquiry into the lived experiences of the participants with a focus on how they understand their ethnicity and ethnic identity as influenced by their parents or family and external social forces. These experiences, which include earliest memories to present day, were recounted through the participants' stories. Three information gathering techniques--the construction of genograms, a modified version of the Life History Interview (McAdams, 1995), journal writing, and the collection of pertinent memorabilia--were employed to elicit the participants' stories. The views that provide the conceptual framework for this study are grounded in social learning theory and acculturation theory, and refer to dynamic models of ethnic and racial identity development. More specifically the understanding of identity as malleable and dynamic, of ethnic and racial "minorities" as historically marginalized peoples, and of the family as the primary socializing force for individuals, guided the co-construction and interpretation of stories shared by the participants in this study. Recursive processes of interviewing, and transcribing and coding with a second reader led to the emergence of various themes from participants' interviews. The importance of education, the importance of family, and the purpose of religion emerged as themes for each participant. Several sub-themes--phenotype, body image, social status, maintaining cultural connection, and negotiating multiple identities--also emerged for each participant. These sub-themes were interpreted to be indicative of a unifying theme which brought to light how issues related to ethnicity, and to the related construct race, were operational in the daily lives of the participants. Counseling considerations and implications for future research are discussed.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

CHAPTER

I

RESEARCH OBJECTIVE

1

Introduction

1

Statement of the Problem and

Need for the Study

6

Significance of Ethnic Identity

7

Changing Demographics

9

Acculturation

and Parental Ethnic Socialization

1 1

II

RELATED LITERATURE

1 1

Explanation of Terms

1 4

Anthropological Origins of Terms

1 5

Definitions of Terms

1 6

Race

16

Culture

1 9

Ethnicity

20

Adaptation of Terms to Psych ology and Sociology

2 3

T heoretical Framework

25

Social Learning Theory

2 7

Racial and Ethnic Identity Development Models

2 9

Acculturation Theory

3 5

Intersectionality Framework

39

I II

METHOD OLOGY

4 1

Re searcher‟s Stance

4 1

Rationale for Narrative Inquiry

5 2

Selection of Research Partic i pants

5 3

Eligibility Criteria

5 4

continued

vi

Data Collection Procedures

5 5

Notes on Recruiting E fforts

5 7

The C ultural Genogram

60

The Life History Interview

6 2

Data Ana lysis

6 3

Trustworthiness

and Ethics

6 6

IV

CASE STUD IES

70

Isabela

‟Tween “Twinkie” and the Hy phen

7 1

The “Twinkie Years”

7 2

Education

74

Lang uage Proficiency and Ethnic Id en tification

8 1

Negotiating Multiple Ethnic Identities

8 5

Family

9 1

Religion

9 4

Body Image

9 6

Consuelo

A Complex Combin ation

of

Compartmentalized Selves

100

Ethnicity and Race

10 3

Education

1 10

Family

11 5

Religion

11 9

Body Image

12 4

V

THEMATIC ANA LYSIS

12 9

Manifestations of Ethnicity and Race

1 30

Phenotype , Body Imag e,

and S ocial Status

1 30

C ultural Connections: Traditions, Landscapes,

and People

1 3 5

Negotiating Multiple Ethnic Identities

1 3 6

The Importance of Education

1 4 1

Family

Expectations ,

Money, and Education

1 42

The Model Minority: An Ethnic Burden

1 4 5

Family

1 46

Religion

1 4 9

continued

vii

VI

DISCUSSION

1 5 1

Interpretation of Themes

15 1

Parental Ethnic Socialization and

Ethnic Ident i fication

15 4

Negotiati ng

Multiple Ethnic Identities

15 5

Accul t uration

1 60

Manifestations of Ethnicity and Race

16 1

Cultural Connections

16 3

Importance of Education

16 6

Religion

16 8

Ap plication of t he Intersectionality Framework

17 1

Limitations of this Study

1 7 7

Implications for Practice and

Recommendations fo r Research

1 7 8

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1 8 3

APPENDICES

201

A

RECRUITMENT FL YER

201

B

PRESCREENING INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

202

C

PARTICIPANT CONSENT FORM

203

D

QUESTIONS FOR THE CULTURAL GENOGRAM

20 5

FIGURE 1

20 7

FIGURE 2

20 8

E

LIFE HISTORY INTERVIEW PROTOCOL

209

F

HO ME ASSIGNMENT #1

216

G

HOME ASSIGNMENT #2

217

H

HOME ASSIGNMENT #3

21 8

c ontinued

viii

LIST OF FIGURES

1

Isabela‟s g enogram

207

2

Consuelo‟s genogram

208

3

A view of the Caribbean Sea from the beachfron t

in the d ese rt Columbian town of Cavo de la Vela

219

4

A e rial view of Bogotá from Cerro de Monserrate,

a mountain in c entral

Bogotá

-

A

219

5

Aerial view of Bogotá from Cerro de Monserrate,

a mountain in central Bogo tá

-

B

220

6

Consuelo displays the Columbian flag in recognition

of the location where the Battle of Boyacá won

Columbian independence

220

7

Sculpture depicting the moment Jes us fell while

carrying the cross,

h oused in 17 th

century sanctuary

at Cerro de M onser rate

221

8

Catedra l de Sal (Salt Cathedral)

in Zipaquirá, Bogotá

-

A

22 2

9

Catedral de Sal (Salt Cathedral) in Zipaquirá, Bogotá

-

B

222

1

CHAPTER I

RESEARCH OBJECTIVE

Introduction

Contemporary psychological literature is replete with studies on the development of biracial identity ( Jacobs, 1992; Root, 1992) and bicultural identity (LaFromboise,

Coleman, & Gerton, 1993; Phinney & Devich - Navarro, 1997). The majority of this literature examines the adjustment of first -

and second - generation people of color 1

as new members in American society (Anderson, 1991; Cuellar, Harris & Jasso, 1980; Matute - Bi anchi, 1986; Phinney et al., 1994). Few studies however, have examined how these individuals experience and understand their ethnic identity, particularly as it is influenced by family and other socializing forces.

1

The term people of color

is used throughout this study to refer to individuals in the United States whose ancestry includes one or more group/s of non - European descent that historically have been denied access to power and economic resources as a consequence of their racial and/or ethnic heritage. It is used in place of the more common misnomer minority

which connotes an inferior status.

2

Several researchers (Bernal, Knight, O‟C ampo, Garza, & Cota, 1990; Bernal & Knight, 1993; Quint ana

& Vera, 1993) examined parental influence on several aspects of children‟s

ethnic identity

development. Others (Brown, Tanner - Smith, Lesane - Brown, & Ezell, 2007; O‟Brien Caughy, Nettles, O‟Campo, &

Fraleigh Lorhrfink, 2006) have examined the impact of contextualized family dynamics on children‟s ethnic identity development. Minimal research has been done on individuals‟ subjective experiences of parental influences on ethnic identity development. An d no research has looked at adults‟ observati ons of parental impact on their identity . This failure to investigate individuals‟ subjective experiences of primary socializing influences on their conceptualization and development of

ethnic self - identificatio n calls into question the depth of understanding psychologists can claim regarding identity. This study responds to this gap in literature with the primary goal of inquiring into

the process of ethnic identity development –

that is, how multi - ethnic people

of color

come to

understand their ethnicity and ethnic identity ,

and how their understanding is

influenced by their family or other primary socializing forces.

Questions of identity for people of color in America have long been the core of social and po litical discord, and have simultaneously formed the basis for social and political alliances. Access to power and economic resources in this country are closely linked to racial and ethnic identity. Historically, people of color have been denied power and resources in varying degrees depending on their racial and ethnic backgrounds. Simplifying the methods used to identify the

3

racial and ethnic background of individuals in the United States has helped to maintain this inequitable distribution of power and r esources (Miller, 1992; Root, 1992). For example, it is a common social practice to use physical attributes to assign individuals to racial and ethnic groups despite the fact that phenotype is merely one of numerous elements helpful in identifying racial a nd ethnic background. It is also common to ascribe individuals to singular racial or ethnic groups despite multiple heritages. Practices such as l imiting the number of choices for ethnic self - identification and creating discrete racial categories on census

forms (Fernandez, 1992, 1995; Moore, 1995) ha ve

legalized and institutionalized the restriction of

diversity . These practices redefine people with multiple heritage backgrounds

into constricted groups which may not fully reflect their identities . Furtherm ore , t hese practices

diminish the complexities of racial and ethnic identity and can cause confusion and misunderstanding in multi - ethnic individuals as well as those who wish to identify them.

Helms and Cook (1999) discussed the complexities of racial id entity development for Blacks in the United States due to a history of oppression by ,

and efforts to segregate them from ,

European Americans. In her original model of Black identity development, Helms (1989) addressed the impact of simplifying

4

race on iden tity development. Her model addresses the effects of the “one drop rule” 2

on the identity development of mixed race individuals.

The purpose of the “one drop rule” was to preserve the exclusivity and power of the White race. Consequently, interracial or

interethnic mixing was stigmatized because it threatened the inimitability of the White group (Miller, 1992; Smedley & Smedley, 2005). The sense of devaluation among Blacks that began with the culture of slavery was extended by the stigmatization and conc omitant negative societal images of interracial and interethnic individuals. One of the effects of this rule of hypodescent was to fuel the intra - racial hierarchy of color that emerged within the Black race. In this hierarchy “mulattoes,” or people of mixe d Black - White racial parentage, were regarded with increased social status in concert with the degree to which their physical characteristics approached those associated with the White race. The discrepancy in the way people of color were regarded based on

physical attributes such as “light” versus “dark” skin, “fine” versus “coarse” hair, “broad” versus “narrow” noses, and “full” versus “thin” lips, bred in - group hostilities that persist today and continue to profoundly impact how people of color perceive and value themselves.

2

T he “one drop

rule” or rule of hypodescent is the social dictate that assigns to the Black race all individuals of any discernible African ancestry. According to this rule, all individuals for whom any evidence can be found of genetic relation to a person of the Black race are necessarily identified as racially Black.

5

Recognizing that individuals from other ethnic groups of color often shared similar experiences regarding simplified racial and ethnic categorization, Helms (1990) expanded her initial model for Black identity development to include

other visible racial and ethnic groups (VREGs) and has reported extensively on the social, political, and psychological realities of VREGs. Other researchers (Kerwin & Ponterotto, 1995) also have found pervasive social pressure to adopt a single racial or

ethnic identity. This phenomenon is inconsistent with the experiences of individuals of color who claim multiple ethnic identities despite social pressure to adopt only one. Although ethnic identity is based in part on physical characteristics (Sodowsky, Kwan, & Pannu, 1995), the practice of relegating individuals to singular groups based on phenotype does not take into account the complexity of ethnic identity . A focus on overt physical characteristics

may fail to account for the individual‟s sense of eth nic group membership, another critical component of ethnic identity.

The primary purpose of this study is to elucidate the process of ethnic identity development for the multi - ethnic person of color –

that is, how ethnic identity development unfolds over

time, as a product of social influences, and within social contexts. The clarification of this developmental process takes place through an

examination of the

lived experiences

of the participants

with a focus on how they understand their ethnicity

and

et hnic identity as influenced by their family and developing over time .

As a consequence of the findings in this investigation I hope to contribute to a more comprehensive discussion of the term

6

ethnicity

one that more fully captures the experiences of tha t segment of the population whose identity is more complex than current literary discussion conveys.

Statement of the Problem and Need for the Study

A number of issues warrant inquiry into individual experiences around ethnic identity development. F oremost ,

the recognition of ethnic identity as fundamental to one‟s overall sense of self (Stephan, 1992) marks it as worthy of continued attention for the purpose of unders tanding individual development. The rapid growth of that segment of the population in the United States who identify as people of color, coupled with specific social and political complexities of everyday lives that impact the perception of self among members of this population, call for increased efforts to understand their development in this regard. Although ethnicity is a fundamental element of one‟s overall identity it has failed to capture the attention of psychological study until relatively recently as compared to its counterparts, race and

culture. Despite the relative scarcity o f information on eth n ic identity before the last twenty years, recognition of its importance to an overall sense of self has emerged in psychological literature. This study continues in the effort to add to this body of literature.

7

Significance of E th nic I dentity

Unlike race which historically has referred to biologically based differences, ethnicity

is grounded in cultural characteristics and refers to the cohesion of people with shared ideologies, practices, knowledge, etc. that are the artifacts of a common culture.

Despite this distinction ,

the terms are often used interchangeably and are commonly determined based on phenotypic markers.

As is true regarding race, questions of ethnicity for people of color in the United States are laden with soc ial and political complexities. Similar to racial hierarchies that emerged as a result of slavery and segregation, ethnic hierarchies emerged as a result of competition for resources between new ethnic groups immigrating to the United States. Researchers a cknowledge that ethnic group classification and stratification came to be centered on political and economic criteria (Bolaffi, Bracalenti, Braham, & Gindro, 2003), and that ethnicity evolved into an alternative to social class distinctions (Brass, 1991). The stratification of ethnicities bred conflict and hostility between groups resulting in denigration of each group by the others. The resulting negative images and stereotyping of each ethnic group were incorporated into the psyche of group members as the y attempted to reconcile their identities as new members of American society and have been transmitted through generations as part of each group‟s cultural socialization. The consequences of denigration of ethnic groups are important because of the signifi cance of ethnic identity to the development of the self.

8

Ethnic identity . . . is particularly important to the self because it is a master status, an identity that overrides all others in others‟ judgments of the self. As such, it is also basic to the

establishment of self - meaning. The question of ethnic identity is particularly acute and potentially problematic for people of mixed ancestry (Stephan, 1992, p. 51).

Stephan‟s acknowledgement of ethnic identity as fundamental to the conceptualization of the self speaks to the importance of examining the factors that contribute to the understanding of ethnic identity. Beliefs about ethnicity and race can critically influence the healthy psychological functioning of people of color in the United States in p articular, because their ethnic groups historically have been poorly represented and the focus of societal deprecation (Phinney, 1990: Quint ana

& Vera, 1999). Prior to the last twenty years however, psychological literature focused on issues regarding mult iple heritage backgrounds primarily as they concerned the mixing of “minorities” with Whites. Root (1992) found that issues related to the intermarriage and producing of children of color has been given little attention in the literature because the interm ixing between people of color does not jeopardize the boundary between White and non - White. The result is an absence in literature of investigation into concerns of people of all racial, ethnic, and cultural mixing. This absence is reflective of and reinfo rces “. . . [o]ur tendency to think simplistically about complex relationships [that] has resulted in dichotomous, hierarchical

9

classification systems that have become vehicles of oppression” (Root, 1992, p. 4). Until recently, there has been little focus on understanding the complexities associated with ethnic identity development for members of historically marginalized groups. The significance of ethnic identity to the conceptualization of the self speaks to the need for greater insight into its developm ent in this growing segment of the American population. This study responds

to this need by seeking greater insight into the process of ethnic identity development as conveyed by multi - ethnic individual s .

Changing D emographics

In their recent inve stigation of ethnic identity during adolescence, French, Seidman, Allen, and Aber (2006) pointed to the rapidly changing demographics of our nation as another reason for increased efforts to understand ethnic identity development. The researchers noted tha t people of color will eventually outnumber European - Americans. And although the field of psychology historically has failed to focus on and accurately portray the development of people of color, the growth of this segment of the population calls for renew ed attention to these groups . Earlier, Root (1992 ,

1995) noted that the practice of presenting demographic changes in the United Stated in terms of a White versus non - White duality perpetuates a rule of hypodescent and fails to account for ever - increasing

10

rates of interracial and interethnic procreation. This practice contributes to the continued misunderstanding of people with multiple heritage backgrounds. Miller (1992) pointed out that the growth of this population would warrant theory to describe their

experiences. The sentiments of French, et al. (2006) and Miller (1992) echo those of Comas - Díaz (1992) who observed that although psychotherapy traditionally has “. . . reflect[ed] the cultural values and inherent biases of the majority. . . [it will] . .

. begin to reflect the values of people of color . . . [and] alter the way that psychotherapy is conceptualized, practiced, and researched” (p. 88). Indeed, these changes for the field of psyc hology have come to fruition; changes that necessitated the est ablishment of the guidelines for multicultural education, training, research, and practice which were initially developed with absolute focus on the racial and ethnic identity

concerns

of “minority” ethnic and racial groups in the United States (American P sycho logical Association, 2002). This study responds

to t he needs result ing from such changes in the American population . It was u ndertaken to add depth to the

body of research on identity development in

members of this growing portion of the American popu la ti on .

11

Acculturation and P arent al

E thnic S ocialization

An assumption in this study is that one of the precursors to understanding identity development is to understand the influence of family on this process . The relatively recent onset of accu lturation research includes studies on how the primary socializing circle, such as the family, influences the understanding of ethnic identity among individuals with multiple heritage backgrounds. According to Phinney and Chavira (1995), minimal attention was paid to parental socialization regarding ethnicity prior to the 1990s. In their recent review of literature, Hughes, Rodriguez, Smith, Johnson, Stevenson, and Spicer (2006) noted a tremendous growth post 1990 in studies on parents‟ ethnic and racial so cialization practices. However, many of these are empirical studies which categorize and evaluate parental transmission of cultural mores, values, and customs (Stevenson, 1994, 1995; Thornton, 1997, 1998; Thornton, Chatters, Taylor, & Allen, 1990), examine

the ecological correlates of these variables (Hughes, 2003; Hughes & Chen, 1997; Thornton, et al., 1990), and determine their implications for various aspects of development (Knight, Bernal, Cota, Garza, & Ocampo, 1993; Phinney & Chavira, 1995; Quint ana

&

Vera, 1999). The few studies that focused on the multi - ethnic individuals‟ experience of ethnic identity targeted children and adolescents. Hughes and Johnson (2001) gathered information from children on their ethnic identity via structured, self - administ ered surveys. Phinney and Chavira (1995) determined the influence of parental socialization on ethnic identity via interviews with parents rather than as reported

12

by the adolescents who were the subjects of their study. And Fatimilehin (1999) determined te enagers‟ experience of racial socialization via self - report

on the Teenager Experience of Racial Socialization (TERS) measure.

This study moves toward

more personalized representation s of the impact of parental ethnic socialization on ethnic identity devel opment.

Critical to our understanding of the impact of parental ethnic socialization on various aspects of development is

recognizing its relationship to acculturation. Acculturation research strongly focuses on the degree to which immigrants to the Unite d States and their children adopt an American ethnic identity, and/or maintain the ethnic identity of their heritage culture. This literature is relevant to this study given the participants‟ identification as first generation, American - born women of color . The degree of acculturation may vary within a range from full acculturation to marginalization fro m ethnic heritage and American identities. One‟s degree of acculturation would be evident in the extent to which the individual exhibited adoption of an Ame rican identity and renunciation of one‟s heritage ethnic identity, rejection of mainstream culture and American identity

in service of maintaining one‟s heritage ethnic identit y, or

marginalization from both . S tudies on acculturation to American society ha ve had important implications for understanding the identity development of immigrant groups .

The significance of ethnic identity to an overall sense of self

(Stephan, 1992)

signals

it as worthy of deliberate

attention in psychological research. It is a lso warranted that we intensify efforts to understand the ethnic identity development

13

of historically marginalized people of color given the

identification of these groups as the fastest growing segment of the American population

(Comas - Díaz, 1992; French et al., 2006; Miller, 1992) . This phenomenon

calls attention to the need for continued inquiry into the social, political, religious, historical, and economic factors that influence their emotional and psychological well - being. Because these groups compris e ethnic immigrant s

and their first or second generation progeny, attention to the influence

of acculturation is critical to any legitimate inquiry into their identity development.

The interplay of these social phenomena are considered in this inquiry that

was designed with the idea that c ontinued investigation into the ways in which individuals of color with multiple heritage backgrounds conceptualize their ethnic identity and the factors that influence their conceptualization will contribute to a more tho roughly informed conversation about identity. A deeper understanding of the subjective experiences of these individuals may aid in a more profound appreciation of the complexity of social, political, economic, religious, and other factors that impact their

identity development. Ideally, efforts to take into account the lived experiences of these individuals “. . . might enable us to disassemble the vehicle of oppression . . .” (Root, 1992, p.4) fueled by identity limiting constructs such as race , culture , a nd ethnicity .

14

CHAPTER II

RELATED LITERATURE

Expl ana tion of Terms

In the United States, race,

culture , and ethnicit y are the predominant terms used to discuss people‟s identities as related to physical attributes, location of or igin, and customs and traditions. Due to a lack of precise definitions, however, their meanings have considerable overlap and the terms have been used interchangeably, causing confusion over how they contribute to our understanding of identity. Several res earchers ( Cokley, 2005; Helms, 1994; Jackson, 2006) have acknowledged this problem and have attempted to clearly distinguish between these terms. Generally these researchers acknowledge that each term

is socially constructed. They also acknowledge that the

concept of ethnicity

is fluid and malleable ,

changing within and between the individual and the environment.

The meaning of ethnicity

also change s

from one person to the next given its fluid nature. ( The dynamic nature of these constructs will be discusse d further in the following expl ana tions of each term. )

This conceptualization of ethnicity

as shared and changeable represents the crux of the inquiry

in this study. The goal

in this study is to clarify the unfolding of ethnic identity development as a pro cess that occurs over time as a function of social influences and within social contexts.

15

The focus will be on the transmission and assumption of ideas regarding ethnicity

through the participants‟

lived experiences, their perception of parental influence on their views of ethnicity, and the

transformation of these into a sense of ethnic identity as

multi - ethnic people of color.

Ultimately the aim of this study is to contribute to a more profound

understanding of the term ethnicity,

one that will more truly

reflect the identity of all individuals.

In an effort to provide a context for our discussion of the term ethnicity , I offer in this section the history and progression of the literary meaning of this term and its counterparts, race

and culture .

Anth ropological O rigins of T erms

The terms race , culture , and ethnicity

were originally anthropological terms intended to generally categorize, describe social norms, and define social ties respectively. These terms were conceived to assist in understanding

cultural differences which has always been the primary aim in anthropology. This understanding however has been informed by European and Northern American cultural viewpoints which historically have dominated the field of anthropology (Jenkins, 1996). The

following discussion of these terms begins with the premise that the tendency to interpret cultural differences from a Eurocentric viewpoint has endured through years of transformation and is embedded in the meanings

16

that are made of these terms. These me anings have been inculcated in all fields of research.

Definitions of T erms

Race

Smedley and Smedley (2005) asserted that the earliest conceptualization of race , which appeared between the 16 th

and 18 th

centuries, was as a general classifying term and could be likened to terms such as “ type”, “kind”, and “sort.” This early concept of race

had no relation to its current notion of biologically - based differences which separate and assign value to different groups of people. These researchers maint ain that the trend toward what is now a deeply entrenched notion of race

as the structure for separating and categorizing different groups of people began with its reference to three groups in North America

d uring the 17 th

century –

Europeans, Africans, a nd Native Americans. 3

According to Smedley and Smedley, the 18 th

into 19 th

century saw increased use and standardization of the term race

to refer to these three groups in terms of their social status, as well as its establishment as the new way of structu ring society and thinking about human differences. These changes responded to the need to divide and stratify

3

Other groups were fitted into the racial classification system as they immigrated into the United States, with some eventually being assimilated into the White race and others being assigned to various racial categories between White and Black.

17

groups resulting from the enslavement and dehumanization of Africans that took place during the time.

This worldview of racial differences and W hite superiority has endured into the 20 th

and 21 st

centuries with debates about its veracity taken up by the fields of anthropology, sociology, psychology, and medicine in the United States and Europe. The field of medical science has been most influentia l in promoting as reality the inequality of races rooted in physiological differences. Efforts toward this end began during the early 19 th

century with the examination of differences in parts of the body, and head and brain size (Marks, 1995). By the late 19 th

century, the field of psychology had taken up the task with the creation of tests to measure differences in intelligence. The efforts in these fields legitimized the notion of biologically - based differences and inequalities between the races as natura lly occurring phenomena.

Full document contains 231 pages
Abstract: The primary purpose of this study was to capture a more profound understanding of the term ethnicity by elucidating the process of ethnic identity development for the multi-ethnic person of color. Many studies over the last 20 to 30 years have examined ethnicity by isolating, and determining the effects of, various components of the construct. Very few studies have focused on personal experiences related to ethnic identity and its development as a locus for a deeper understanding of term ethnicity. This study focuses on individual experiences and understanding of the process of ethnic identity development - that is, how ethnic identity unfolds over time, as a product of social influences, and within social contexts. The clarification of this developmental process took place through an inquiry into the lived experiences of the participants with a focus on how they understand their ethnicity and ethnic identity as influenced by their parents or family and external social forces. These experiences, which include earliest memories to present day, were recounted through the participants' stories. Three information gathering techniques--the construction of genograms, a modified version of the Life History Interview (McAdams, 1995), journal writing, and the collection of pertinent memorabilia--were employed to elicit the participants' stories. The views that provide the conceptual framework for this study are grounded in social learning theory and acculturation theory, and refer to dynamic models of ethnic and racial identity development. More specifically the understanding of identity as malleable and dynamic, of ethnic and racial "minorities" as historically marginalized peoples, and of the family as the primary socializing force for individuals, guided the co-construction and interpretation of stories shared by the participants in this study. Recursive processes of interviewing, and transcribing and coding with a second reader led to the emergence of various themes from participants' interviews. The importance of education, the importance of family, and the purpose of religion emerged as themes for each participant. Several sub-themes--phenotype, body image, social status, maintaining cultural connection, and negotiating multiple identities--also emerged for each participant. These sub-themes were interpreted to be indicative of a unifying theme which brought to light how issues related to ethnicity, and to the related construct race, were operational in the daily lives of the participants. Counseling considerations and implications for future research are discussed.