The Development of Ethnic Identity During Adolescence Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 1 November 2016

The Development of Ethnic Identity During Adolescence

This paper will summarize the assignment The Development of Ethnic Identity during Adolescence. The paper will focus on definitions and discuss the various theories that speak to ethnic Identity during development, and finally the one of the many models for testing identity ethnic development.

Erikson described adolescent identity exploration as a crisis of identity versus identity diffusion: “From among all possible imaginable relations, [the adolescent] must make a series of ever narrowing selections of personal, occupational sexual and ideological commitments” (Erikson, 1968). The construct, ethnic identity, can best be understood through an examination of its etymological origins. The term ethnic has Latin and Greek origins – ethnicus and ethnikas both meaning nation. It can and has been used historically to refer to people as heathens. Ethos, in Greek, means custom, disposition or trait. Ethnikas and ethos taken together therefore can mean a band of people (nation) living together who share and acknowledge common customs.

The second part of the construct, identity, has Latin origins and is derived from the word identitas; the word is formed from idem meaning same.Thus, the term is used to express the notion of sameness, likeness, and oneness. More precisely, identity means “the sameness of a person or thing at all times in all circumstances; the condition or fact that a person or thing is itself and not something else” (Simpson & Weiner, 1989, p. 620). There are many theories that substantiate the development of ethnic Identity during adolescence. Although Erikson’s theory of identity development is widely cited, other theories provide important knowledge about identity and its development.

The attachment theories emphasize the value of the trust and security that a child learns from his/her mother in infancy. Social learning theories expand the constructs of self-concept and self-worth as the basis of self-description in late childhood. Cognitive development theory describes the age-related processes leading to a child’s limitation before adolescence and competence during adolescence for establishing identity. Researchers investigating Erikson’s theory of identity development have provided important modifications to the theory. (Brogan, n.d.).

Attachment Theory. Theorists such as Mary Ainsworth, who studied attachment in infancy, observed and explained concepts similar to those of Erikson. The description of attachment compares to Erikson’s description of trust. In his theory, infants who have learned trust grow into children who accept that life has order and purpose. These growing children have a trusting and accepting relationship with their mother. Infants who have learned attachment grow into children who look to the mother for guidance and rely on her as a safe base for exploration. In both cases, these children’s personality can be expected to have a basic confidence. Failure in attachment and in trust results in a confused child who is not sure about trusting parents and/ or may have little discretion in trusting others. (Brogan, para., 11, n.d.).

One difference in the two theories is that Erikson expected trust to be established in the first year. Ainsworth has shown that secure attachment can take as long as 18 months. Another difference is the strength of the influence on later development attributed to the mother-child bond. Ainsworth sees attachment as the most important influence on development. For Erikson, that influence is modified by the resolution of later psychosocial crises. (Brogan, para.,12, n.d.). Social Learning Theory. As noted above, once self awareness is established, the self concept starts to develop. The self concept is the basic representation in children’s minds of who they are and what they are like. Social learning theorists emphasize that the self concept is built upon the identification with role models, an assessment of self worth, and a preferred pattern in relating to the external world (Carver & Scheier, 1992).

Cognitive Development. The patterns of development that Erikson describes are related to what Jean paPiaget (1896– 1980) and the cognitive psychologists recognize about age-related strategies of children in reasoning. There are limits in children’s reasoning until adolescence. Before adolescence, individuals are not capable of the cognitive reasoning necessary in establishing identity. (Brogan, para ,18., n.d.).

Understanding the developmental stage for ethnic identity starts early and there are various models use to identify this development one of these model is Phinney’s Model of Ethnic Identity Development (1995) this model is a three stage model. The first stage of the model focuses on unexamined ethnicity and is categorize as understanding the influence and knowledge of where ethnicity exists. The second stage is a search for ethnic identity its challenges to find an awareness of their individual selves. And the third stage concerns ethnic identity achievement to develop a positive, bicultural identity (Student Development Theory Overview)


Brogan, R. The gale group (n.d.).Identity Development. Retrieved from Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1992). Perspectives on personality (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Retrieved from Erikson, E. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton. Retrieved from Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., Guido, F. M., Patton, L. D., & Renn, K. A. (2010). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice (2 ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from

Trimble, J.E &Dickson, R. (n.d.). Ethnic Identity. Retrieved from Simpson, J. A., & Weiner, E. S. (1989). The Oxford English dictionary (2nd ed., Vol. VII). Oxford: Clarendon Press. Retrieved from

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