The Identity Project


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Today, 40 percent of people under the age 18 identify as an ethnic minority. High school is a time when many teens start to explore who they are and studies suggest when adolescents have a clear sense of their general identity, it may promote higher self-esteem and better mental health. A new study examines a program that helps teens explore their ethnic backgrounds.

Black, latino, white, or asian; these are terms that many use to describe themselves. However, for young adolescents starting high school, finding an ethnic identity might not be as simple as black or white. But when teens start exploring ethnic-racial heritage it can help them form an identity.

Researchers at Arizona State University studied over 200 ninth graders from various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The students were placed in two groups. The first group took part in the Identity Project, where they were provided information to explore their own ethnic-racial heritage. The other group received curriculum exposing them to options after high school. The study found the students who took part in the identity project increased their exploration of ethnic-racial identity compared to the other group of students. The increase in exploration predicted a higher likelihood that the students would resolve issues related to their ethnic identity and adjust to life better as they age.

Exposure to ethnic-racial groups that are different from one’s own is a key way that parents can help initiate discussions about their own background. It’s also important for parents not to ignore or minimize the impact of racial and ethnic issues in a child’s life.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.