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Who are you?: Exploring Identity Content Among Young Adults from Diverse Backgrounds Across Contexts Using a Mixed-Methods Approach


As our society becomes ever more diverse, so too does the task of finding answers to the fundamental question of identity— “Who am I?” A general tendency of developmental psychologists working with young people from diverse backgrounds is to emphasize ethnic identity and racial identity over other domains of identities. Yet, young people today define and express their identities in diverse and complex ways, beyond ethnicity and race. Developmental psychologists, therefore, are tasked to integrate multiple approaches to study the identity development of the “whole person.” This dissertation, therefore, adopted a “whole person” approach and an ecological perspective to address two research questions: (1) How important do young adults from diverse backgrounds consider their identities across various contexts? and (2) How do young adults from diverse backgrounds express the identities they consider important across various contexts? The Multidimensional-Identities-Qualitatative-Quantitative-Questionnaire (MiQQ) was administered to a diverse sample of 220 young adults (M age = 23) to collect information about their identities and experiences across various contexts and to assess the importance of these identities.

Findings indicated that young adults from diverse backgrounds may consider an array of identities meaningful and important when defining themselves across contexts. Moreover, the relative importance of these identities also varied across contexts. Findings also demonstrated that young adults from diverse backgrounds may express their identities in ways to communicate to others their growing sense of maturity/autonomy, relatedness/belongingness, efficacy, self-esteem, and social responsibility. They may also express their identities to honor and empower the self and others, as well as to conform to and resist social norms and standards. Taken together, these findings highlighted the significance of adopting a “whole person” approach and an ecological perspective to understand the unique as well as the shared identity experiences of young adults from diverse backgrounds. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

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