Ethnic/Racial Identity in Context: New Directions and Preliminary Findings


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  • Speaker: Debbie Rivas-Drake, Associate Professor of Education and Psychology, University of Michigan
  • Host Department: Psychology
  • Date: 12/08/2014
  • Time: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

  • Location: 4464 East Hall

  • Description:


    There are important individual differences in the extent to which youth benefit from exposure to diverse peers (e.g., forming cross-group friendships). Indeed, youths’ ability to interact with diverse peers in positive and effectual ways is a developmental competency that must be nurtured, as it has important implications for later educational experiences (e.g., college), the workforce, and positive intergroup relations in broader society. Ethnic-racial identity (ERI) is one key process that informs youths’ intergroup interactions. In this talk, I will first briefly introduce two new projects in the CASA Lab ( that examine contexts of ERI process and content in adolescence. I will then focus on emerging findings from a study of ERI and peer relations among middle school youth in a diverse setting. Some key questions we will consider are: (1) how do multiple dimensions of ERI inform peer relations and academic adjustment among early adolescents?; (2) to what extent does ERI facilitate or hinder youths’ intergroup interactions?; and (3) are youth more willing to want to befriend and get to know individuals from other ethnic or racial groups if peers around them are so inclined? Future directions for this work will also be discussed.


    Deborah Rivas-Drake's research is broadly concerned with how adolescents and young adults make sense of their place in society. She draws from developmental perspectives that attend to cultural and ecological/contextual factors and examines variation in processes both within and across diverse ethnic and racial groups, especially Latino and African American youth. Currently, one line of inquiry explores how schools, families, peers, and communities influence the development of ethnic and racial identity, and how such identities shape youths' academic and psychological outcomes. She is interested in, for instance, the ways in which parents' efforts to socialize their children around issues of ethnicity and race (i.e., ethnic-racial socialization) intersect with youths' own experiences outside the family context - such as when they experience discrimination in school and peer settings. Her work also examines the extent to which ethnic identity can buffer youth from the pernicious consequences of discrimination on academic and psychological outcomes.

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