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Ethnic socialization and ethnic identity in Korean American adolescents and young adults: The relative roles of parents and friends

  • Author(s): Kim, Ann Young
  • Advisor(s): Hudley, Cynthia
  • Ho, Hsiu-Zu
  • et al.

To contribute to the growing research on ethnic identity development, this dissertation examined the influences of parent and peer ethnic socialization on Korean American ethnic identity. Ethnic identity was defined using three dimensions: exploration, resolution, and affect. Exploration refers to the extent to which one has explored one's ethnic heritage. Resolution refers to a feeling of reaching a comfortable ethnic identity after exploration. Affect refers to the feelings one has towards one's ethnic identity. Ethnic socialization was defined as having three subcomponents: cultural socialization, preparation for bias, and promotion of mistrust. Cultural socialization refers to conversations regarding one's history, culture, food, and other ethnic background knowledge. Preparation for bias refers to conversations regarding the bias that one may experience in greater society. Promotion of mistrust refers to conversations suggesting the individual keep distance from those of other ethnic and racial backgrounds. Ethnic identity has been identified as being significantly related to both academic achievement and psychological well-being. Thus, the healthy and secure achievement of ethnic identity is an important developmental task.

Ethnic identity and ethnic socialization were examined in a relatively understudied subpopulation of interest, Korean Americans. The Korean American community is typically viewed as being successful, based on the high proportions of those who hold postsecondary degrees and a median income that is higher than general median income for the United States (U.S. Census, 2011). However, adolescents in the community also experience mental and physical health challenges. The literature review in this dissertation discusses the role of ethnic identity in adolescent development, parent ethnic socialization, and the role of friends during adolescence. The literature suggests that friend ethnic socialization may be an important variable that has not been fully explored in research on ethnic identity development. The review concludes with the research questions examined in this dissertation.

Chapter 3 introduces the participants of the study and the methodologies used to answer the research question. Three-hundred and twenty-two Korean American adolescents and young adults were surveyed using an instrument made up several modified survey measures. The Ethnic Identity Scale (Umaña-Taylor, Yazedjian, & Bamaca-Gomez, 2004) was modified and shortened. Questions previously asked to parents about their racial socialization practices (Hughes & Chen, 1997; Hughes & Johnson, 2001) were modified to fit the study's design of surveying adolescent and young adults about their perceived experiences having conversations with their parents and their friends. A pilot study was conducted preliminarily in order to test the validity of the survey instrument's use on this population and the results of the pilot study are included in this chapter.

Chapter 4 reports the results of the study. T-tests were used to verify whether ethnic socialization messages were experienced within the surveyed members of the population and the study confirms that Korean American adolescents and young adults experienced having ethnic socialization conversations with parents and with friends. Multivariate regressions were conducted to examine the influences of the two sources of ethnic socialization on ethnic identity separately. The global construct of parent ethnic socialization significantly predicted exploration and resolution and the global construct of friend ethnic socialization significantly predicted exploration. Finally structural equation modeling was used to model each of the three subcomponents of ethnic socialization from each source and the three dimensions of ethnic identity simultaneously. Only parent promotion of mistrust significantly predicted exploration; whereas all three friend ethnic socialization components predicted all three aspects of ethnic identity.

Further discussions regarding the findings, limitations and suggestions for further research are included in chapter 5.

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