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Sense of Identity

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Basically, the research seeks to build upon previous conducted studies related to identity by attempting to draw a correlation between cultural identity and adaptive and maladaptive behaviors and the consolidation of personal identity. The study also puts into perspective considerations such as adaptive psychosocial functioning, internalization symptoms and proclivity towards externalization symptoms. The study builds on previous studies that have established that Hispanic immigrants are always in a dilemma whether to replace their cultural identity with the new American identity. The realization of the previous studies is that individuals who abandoned their cultural identity for the new American identity were more prone to develop maladaptive behaviors. On the other hand, individuals who maintained their cultural identity and rejected the new identity and the ones who decided to acquire both developed higher and defined sense of personal identity. The relationship between cultural identities was also drawn from the previous studies. The general realization is that the healthy acquisition of a cultural identity in terms of community and familial boosted the capacity of an individual to develop a heightened sense of personals identity. Such individuals were more in control of their lives and made constructive choices such as career choices and were also able to integrate within communities and socialize more comfortably. The research however seeks to establish the role cultural identity plays in the consolidation of personal identity with relation to psychosocial adjustment.

The study observes from that from Erikson’s model of identity synthesis, the maximal acquisition of personal identity is characterized by a higher degree of self knowledge that encourages optimal adult functioning. In addition, maximal acquisition of personal identity is also characterized by the capacity to have internal stability that is resilient against life’s challenges. The balance between identity and identity confusion defines the identity status of an individual. The study outlines four existing statuses of identity namely: “achievement (active exploration following a period of moratorium), moratorium (exploration without commitment), foreclosure (commitment without exploration) and diffusion (absence of exploration and commitment.

The study also puts into consideration the aspect of identity capital. The identity capital acts as a metric to establish the extent to which personal has been consolidated. Identity capital has been used extensively in studying identity status. The findings have established that there is a strong correlation between the identity status that has been acquired and the psychosocial functioning of an individual. Studies related to cultural identity conducted in America realized that for immigrants experienced two opposing cultural identities; their original culture and the American culture. The studies conducted within the multicultural America especially with regard to immigrants have led to the realization that individuals are always in a dilemma whether to discard their original culture and acquire the new culture, maintain their original culture and completely reject the new culture or superimpose both cultures. The observation from the scanty studies conducted is that individuals, who superimpose both cultures within a multicultural society, have better psychosocial attributes. The study therefore works with the suspected fact that individuals who successfully develop cultural values have chances of developing personal identity and subsequently favorable psychosocial functioning. The study focuses on emerging adults by looking at how composed individuals are and whether they exhibit internalization or externalization symptoms. Aspects such as self-determination and the ability of individuals to make the most of their lives are also important consideration in the study to bring out the relationship between identity status and the quality of life that one leads.

Hypothesis of the study

The objective of the study is to find the relationship between cultural identity and the adaptive and maladaptive psychosocial functioning both directly and directly and the consolidation of personal identity. The study also seeks to establish how the findings vary across various ethnic groups. The study seeks to depend significantly on the findings because there is little literature that brings out the relationship between the cultural identity and psychosocial functioning. The study will be aimed at testing three hypotheses. The hypotheses are:

  1. Both the American and heritage culture identities would be positively related to adaptive psychosocial functioning and negatively related to internalizing symptoms and to proclivity towards externalizing problems.
  2. Personal identity consolidation would mediate these relationships.
  3. The relationships are consistent across ethnic groups, gender and US born participants of Hispanic and African origin.

Methodology of the Study

The population of the study involved 773 university students of which 162 were men, 609 women and two were not identified by gender. The participants were enrolled in sociology, psychology and human development courses in five universities in the United States. 68% of the data was collected from Florida International University, 21% from Massachusetts University, 4% from University of Miami, 4% from University of Nebraska, and 4% from California State University Monterey Bay. The mean age of the sample was 20.44 with a standard deviation of 3.97, with 94% of the participants being between the ages of 18 and 29. The sample population was made up of 35% freshmen, 23% sophomore, 24% juniors, 18% seniors and 1% graduate students. In terms of ethnicity 38% were White, 15% Black, and 47% Hispanic.

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The method utilized in the study was the survey method where participants were either directed to the online web page of the study for them to answer questions or they were given consent forms to fill together with the survey forms. The study emphasized on obtaining consent from the participants before issuing them with the survey forms or before being allowed to continue with the online survey.

Data collection was basically done through hard copy data collection survey forms and online survey. All the measures in the study were managed using a five-point likert type response scale High scores in a particular question meant that the participants agreed with a particular construct. Internal consistency estimates reported here were computed using the present dataset. Identity was measured using Erik’s identity synthesis, identity status and identity capital approaches. Identity synthesis was measured using Erikson’s psychosocial stage inventory and Ego identity scale. Both approaches were deemed sufficient to evaluate internal consistency. Identity commitment and achievement were evaluated using Ego Identity Status Questionnaire developed by Balistreri, Busch and Geisinger. The commitment and achievement indices were used to assess the capacity of an individual to negotiate societal resources. Two identity sub-scales adapted from Identity Stage Resolution Index by Cote were used to evaluate identity capital. The essence of evaluating identity capital is to establish the extent to which   individuals have reached a subjective sense of adulthood and community integration. Cultural identity was evaluated by considering heritage cultural identity and American cultural identity. Heritage culture identity was evaluated using vertical and horizontal collectivism, interdependence, orientation towards heritage culture practices, familism, ethnic identity exploration, and ethnic identity affirmation. Adaptive psychosocial functioning was measured using self esteem, purpose in life, internal locus of control, and ego strength. Maladaptive psychosocial functioning was measured using four scale developed by Achenbach where maladaptive was divided into internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Proclivity towards externalizing symptoms was measured using two scale involving impulsivity and tolerance for deviance.  

Data analysis involved multivariate data analysis of variance (MANOVA) of which one was for American Culture identity variables, one for personal identity consolidation variables, one for adaptive psychosocial functioning variables, and one for maladaptive psychosocial identity variables.

The study realized that indicators for heritage culture identity clustered more strongly than indicators for American culture. Collectivism and interdependence clustered with heritage culture identity across all the ethnic groups while individualism clustered with American culture across all ethnic groups. The study also realized that both heritage culture and American culture identity were important for healthy psychosocial development of individuals. The constructs were also found to applicable not only to the first and second generation but also to subsequent generations. The study established that both heritage and American cultural identity were related to psychosocial functioning at least in part in the consolidation of personal identity.

Conclusion

The problems being addressed by the research is a real problem which validates the need for conducting such a research because it was only suspected that cultural identity had correlation with psychosocial functioning through the consolidation of personal identity. The study also seeks to fill the gaps left by previous studies. However, the general realization is that by concentrating on University students alone some aspect of bias might exist and the results might not be a true reflection of the circumstances in the society. University students are knowledgeable individuals and the university provides an environment that encourages the acquisition of American culture for communication and integration purposes. In addition, the population mostly consisted of persons knowledgeable in psychosocial issues and the knowledge may tend to bias the results in terms of being a representation of persons of all levels of knowledge in psychosocial issues. The study also failed to assess the effect of the constructs on persons whose parents are from different cultures. The research was also biased in the sense that most of the respondents were female. Therefore, the perception is that the spread in assessing gender issues was not conclusive. The validity of the research in terms of the results being reproducible, for instance, when different population is used is low. The research has also failed to outline the degree of adopting the American culture in addition to the heritage culture that has the capacity to produce optimal results in personal identity consolidation. An individual might opt to adopt the foreign culture to an extent that it becomes superior to heritage culture and the implications of such a situation are not addressed in the research. The three ideas presented in the research is that there is correlation between cultural identity and psychosocial functioning, the relationship operates at the level of personal identity consolidation and that the relationship is consistent across all ethnic groups and gender. Some of the ideas are the same as the findings of previous studies while others are different. People perceive the conflict between heritage culture and American culture differently with regard to certain variables in operation. However, most individuals have never been able to associate certain maladaptive psychosocial attributes with the inability to consolidate personal identity. In addition, the association between cultural identity and personal identity consolidation is poorly understood by people in multi-cultural environments. The findings might foster cultural integration especially among immigrants who previously had the notion that American culture negatively influences the consolidation of personal identity. In addition, the findings might also encourage young people especially Hispanics and Whites born in American but whose heritage is from other countries to attempt to learn more about their cultures for the purposes of collectivism in interdependency. The general realization is that when persons approach the findings of the study positively, they will be able to consolidate their personal identity more effectively and avoid maladaptive behaviors.

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