Racial discrimination is a pervasive social problem that has a negative impact on the physical and mental health of ethnic minority groups. Yet few researchers have examined this phenomenon within the growing population of multiracial persons, which according to the 2010 census has dramatically increased by 32% since 2000. This is particularly troubling in lieu of new evidence that multiracial persons may be more vulnerable to racial discrimination and other mental and behavioral health risks. This highlights the need for social workers to understand the risks and strengths associated with multiracial identity and navigating multiple racial and ethnic ties within a racialized society.
The purpose of the study was to examine the relationships between perceived racial discrimination, multiracial identity integration, and psychological adjustment of diverse multiracial persons.
Three hypotheses guided this study: (1) perceived racial discrimination would negatively correlate with psychological adjustment (i.e., lower depression, anxiety, stress, negative affect, and higher positive affect); (2) individuals with high multiracial identity integration (who identify strongly with two or more racial groups) would positively correlate with psychological adjustment; and (3) strong multiracial identity integration would buffer the effect of perceived racial discrimination on psychological adjustment.
An online cross-sectional survey design was used to test the three study hypotheses.
The online sample consisted of 263 multiracial persons living in the U.S. The majority of participants were women (78%) ranging in age from 18 to 64 (m=32, SD=9.41), and of mixed Asian heritage (about 30%). Respondents were recruited through online member distribution listservs of national multiracial organizations.
The online survey was comprised of a demographic questionnaire, the Perceived Ethnic Discrimination Questionnaire (IV) (for this study the internal reliability estimate was .92), the Multiracial Identity Integration scale (IV) (á=.81), the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DV) (depression: á=.91, anxiety: á=.81, stress: á=.87), and the Positive Affect Negative Affect Schedule (DV) (Positive:á=.84; Negative:á=.82).
Hierarchical regression analyses were used to test hypothesized main and interaction effects. Regression slopes of significant two-way interactions were plotted using predicted values for representative high (+1 SD) and low (—1 SD) multiracial identity integration on perceived racial discrimination.
All three hypotheses were supported: (1) respondents who perceived more racial discrimination due to their multiracial background reported lower psychological adjustment (p<.05); (2) respondents with strong multiracial identity integration (i.e., who identify strongly with multiple groups and perceive low conflict between their racial groups) reported higher psychological adjustment (i.e., lower depression, anxiety, stress, negative affect, and higher positive affect) (p<.05); and (3) strong multiracial identity integration buffered the effects of perceived racial discrimination on depression, anxiety, and negative affect (p<.05), but not stress.
Conclusions and Implications:
Findings from this study suggest multiracial persons who interpret less conflict and more connectivity between their multiple racial associations may be less vulnerable to some of the negative psychological outcomes linked with discrimination and racism. One important practice implication is that multiracial clients may benefit from cultural enhancing, strength-based therapies that encourages one to recognize the values and opportunities of having multiple racial associations.