Demographic, Psychological, and Social Correlates of Ethnic Identity in Rural Youth
Methods: Data were obtained from the Rural Adaptation Project (RAP), one of the largest studies of rural youth to date, using the School Success Profile Plus survey. This study uses hierarchical multiple regression analysis (HMR) to investigate the demographic, psychological, and social correlates of ethnic identity in a large sample (N=3,418) of rural students in Grades six through eight. Eight blocks of independent variables were regressed onto ethnic identity yielding eight models. Each block of independent variables was chosen based on predictors of ethnic identity reported in the literature. By examining differences in adjusted R2 statistics, HMR allows assessment of the relative influence of each set of predictors.
Results: Results showed that sources of social support (i.e., friends, parents, teachers, neighbors) were important predictors of high ethnic identity. Strong religious beliefs mediated the relationship of self-esteem with ethnic identity and were associated with increased ethnic identity. High levels of school satisfaction and a positive future orientation were positively associated with ethnic identity. Contrary to hypotheses, discrimination experiences were associated with an increase in ethnic identity.
Conclusion/Implications: A strong ethnic identity was related to many positive, prosocial factors, including social support, religion, optimism, and school satisfaction. These sources of support are protective factors that can lower psychological distress, even in the face of stress. Rural environments, especially low-income communities, often have unique stressors absent from urban environments. As such, increasing adolescent ethnic identity might buffer the additional stress inherent in rural communities. As a protective factor, ethnic identity cuts across racial groups, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds. These results can be used to create interventions to bolster ethnic identity in rural youth.