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Cross Cultural Competency, Diversity, & Awareness: Ethical Boundaries
Cultural Diversity & Ethical Boundaries: Overcoming Barriers to Counseling Effectiveness

Section 13
Cultural Diversity - Ethics: Developing Biracial Ethnic Identity

CEU Question 13 | Ethics CE Test | Table of Contents
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs, Nurse CEUs

Ethics - Major Sociocultural Issues
Sociocultural issues play an inherent role in the development of biracial identity. A central and inherent issue is reflected in the decision of when will and how does the concept of race arise initially with children (Gibbs, 1989). Concurrently, the question is how primary and secondary caregivers can help a child in a racist society to develop a positive self-image and achieve a healthy understanding of racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity (Comer, 1989). Ladner (1984) reported that parents handle this decision by denying the issue of race and color, by encouraging the racial and ethnic identity of the most obvious physical qualities, or by promoting a dual (i.e., biracial) identity. Regardless of the decision, the children will endure the consequences.

Another issue is related to the disparity in sociocultural backgrounds of biracial parents. This disparity sometimes makes communication and understanding of each other's views very difficult. Such disparity also presents a special challenge to parents who must transmit family history and an integrated sense of a racial identity to children (Gibbs, 1989).

Helping professionals must also be concerned with the vulnerability of biracial children to differential treatment by parents, relatives, peers, school personnel, and their community (Gibbs, 1989). Inclusive to this concern is how interracial families cope with job discrimination and social isolation in society (Gay, 1987).

Cultural Diversity - Ethics : Biracial Identity Issues and Concerns
A dual racial and cultural identity negatively affects normal ethnic socialization and developmental problems for biracial children. These youth have the additional pressure of deciding which singular ethnic identity to choose or combating societal forces in the expression of biracialism. Biracial children develop racial attitudes and self-concepts very differently than other ethnic children (Logan, 1981) and display a high incidence of academic and behavioral problems in school (McRoy & Freeman, 1986).

In addition, biracial youth have demonstrated problems in other areas. Sebring (1985) reported these youth's difficulty in identifying with the racial minority parent, with personal sexual identity clarification, and of adjustment to a Euro-American environment. Psychological and behavioral problems may include alcohol and other drug abuse, psychosomatic disorders, and suicidal behaviors.

Gibbs (1989) identified the following three fundamental tasks that biracial children must successfully complete to develop a positive self-concept:

  1. The integration of dual racial and cultural identities while also learning how to develop a positive self-concept and a sense of competence
  2. The integration of earlier identifications into a consistent personal identity as well as a positive racial identity
  3. The completion of related tasks such as establishing positive peer interactions, deeming sexual orientation, deciding on career options, and separating from parents.

The Biracial Identity Development Model
Racial-ethnic identity development may be defined as pride in one's racial, ethnic, and cultural heritage (Sue & Sue, 1991). Biracial identity development, however, is a much more complex and undefined process. Poston (1990) developed the Biracial Identity Development Modal to address the inherent weakness of the previously mentioned models and to recognize the increasing numbers of biracial youth. Admittedly, this progressive, developmental model is tentative and based on the scant amount of research on biracial individuals and information from support groups. Nevertheless, the following five-stage model does have implications for personal identity constructs (e.g., self-esteem) for biracial youth:

  1. Personal Identity. Biracial children tend to display identification problems when they internalize outside; prejudices and values. Young children's reference group observation attitudes are not yet developed, so their identity is primarily based on personal identity factors such as self-esteem and feelings of self-worth within their primary reference group.
  2. Choice of Group Categorization. Youth at this stage are pushed to choose an identity, usually of one ethnic group. Numerous factors can influence the individual's identity choice (e.g., status, social support, personal). It would be unusual for an individual to choose a multiethnic identity, because this requires a level of knowledge of multiple ethnicities, races, and cultures, and a level of cognitive development beyond that which is characteristic of this age group.
  3. Enmeshment/Denial. This stage is characterized by confusion and guilt at having to choose one identity that is not fully expressive of one's background. Biracial youth may experience alienation at the Choice stage and make a choice even if they are uncomfortable with it.
  4. Appreciation. Individuals at this stage begin to appreciate their multiple identity and broaden their reference group orientation. They might begin to learn about their racial-ethnic-cultural heritages, but they still tend to identify with one group.
  5. Integration. Individuals at this stage experience wholeness and integration. They tend to recognize and value all of their racial and ethnic identities. At this level, biracial youth develop a secure, integrated identity.

This model is similar to the previously mentioned models in that it integrates a life-span focus. This model is different in that it underscores the uniqueness of biracial identity development. In addition, this model recognizes that the most difficult time of adjustment and identification confusion is during the Choice stage and the Enmeshment-Denial stage. The implication is that helping professionals who understand and accept these five stages will be better prepared to assist biracial youth in their identity development.
- Herring, Roger D.; Developing biracial ethnic identity: a review of the increasing dilemma ; Journal of Multicultural Counseling & Development; Jan 1995, Vol. 23. Issue 1

Personal Reflection Exercise #6
The preceding section contained information about developing biracial ethnic identity.  Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Schwarzenthal, M., Schachner, M. K., van de Vijver, F. J. R., & Juang, L. P. (2018). Equal but different: Effects of equality/inclusion and cultural pluralism on intergroup outcomes in multiethnic classrooms. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 24(2), 260–271.

Trevino, A. Y., Tao, K. W., & Van Epps, J. J. (2021). Windows of cultural opportunity: A thematic analysis of how cultural conversations occur in psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, 58(2), 263–274.

Vázquez, A. L., & Villodas, M. T. (2019). Racial/ethnic differences in caregivers’ perceptions of the need for and utilization of adolescent psychological counseling and support services. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 25(3), 323–330.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 13
What are the five stages of the Biracial Identity Development Model? Record the letter of the correct answer the Ethics CE Test.

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Cultural Diversity & Ethical Boundaries: Overcoming Barriers to Counseling Effectiveness

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