Status maximization, hypodescent theory, or social identity theory? A theoretical approach to understanding the racial identification of multiracial adolescents

Biculturalism, Self Identity and Societal Transformation

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1409-6, eISBN: 978-1-84950-555-0

ISSN: 0195-7449

Publication date: 1 October 2008

Abstract

This chapter examines whether the racial identification of mixed-race adolescents can be understood through several theories: Status Maximization Theory, the rule of hypodescent, or social identity theory. Status Maximization theory posits that mixed-race adolescents will attempt to identify as the highest racial status group they possibly can. The rule of hypodescent or hypodescent theory, also known as the one-drop rule, is a legacy of the Plantation-era South and prescribes that mixed-race individuals identify as their lowest status racial identity. Social identity theory posits that the higher frequency or quality of contacts with parents or individuals in mixed-race adolescents’ peer networks affect the racial identification of mixed-race adolescents. Also, social identity contends that a mixed-race adolescent's intergroup dynamic (measured here as a child's level of self-esteem, whether there is prejudice at school, and a child's self-concept) dictates how he or she will racially identify. Through analyses of mixed-race adolescents in the National Longitudinal Adolescent Health (Add Health), I find that Asian-white and American-Indian-white adolescents do not status maximize nor abide by hypodescent, while black-white adolescents do not status maximize but do adhere to hypodescent when forced to choose one race. There is no tendency for the frequency or quality of contact with parents, romantic partners, or school composition to affect racial identity, as predicted by social identity theory. Yet, several of the aforementioned social-psychological variables are found to influence the racial identification of mixed-race adolescents. Specifically, whether they felt positively about school, if they experienced prejudice, whether they had higher levels of self-esteem, and if they felt socially accepted by their peers. Another key finding from this research suggests that racial identification for Asian-white and American-Indian-white adolescents are both fluid and optional; this is not the case for black-white adolescents. I conclude by offering the implications of these findings for black-white multiracial individuals.

Citation

Oware, M. (2008), "Status maximization, hypodescent theory, or social identity theory? A theoretical approach to understanding the racial identification of multiracial adolescents", Dennis, R.M. (Ed.) Biculturalism, Self Identity and Societal Transformation (Research in Race and Ethnic Relations, Vol. 15), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 225-253. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0195-7449(08)15010-3

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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