Critique of Markstrom-Adams and Adams (1995)*
The aim of this paper is to present the strengths and weaknesses of an article written by MarkstromAdams and Adams (1995), entitled “Gender, Ethnic group, and Grade differences in Psychosocial
Functioning.” This article examines ethnic group differences related to the construct of ego identity,
sex roles, and locus of control. The authors sought to assess differences in psychosocial development
between African Americans, American Indians, Mexican Americans and White Americans. Over all,
the article was well written.
In this cross-sectional study, data was drawn from participants who were in the 10 th, 11th, and 12th grades
at a high school in a small southwestern community in the United States. Participants (N = 123) included
38 Mexican Americans (20 males and 18 females), 36 African Americans (18 males and 18 females),
19 American Indians (8 males and 11 females), and 30 White Americans (16 males and 14 females).
Census information showed that this community was in the lower middle-class strata. For the full strata,
less than 15% of the parents had a college education. The three scales measured ego identity, personal
attributes related to sex roles and locus of control. All three scales showed acceptable reliability and
The researchers conducted a series of ANCOVAs using a 2 (Gender) X 3 (Grade) X 4 (Ethnic group)
factorial design. Results showed that the level of education was significantly different among groups
and by gender. The post hoc test, Tukey’s Honest Significantly Different (hsd) post-hoc test revealed
differences between the variables, ethnic group and year (level of education). In order to control for the
variable of education, the researchers conducted an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA). This statistical
procedure is similar to an ANOVA. However, by employing this technique, the researcher is able to
partial out any extraneous variables that may influence the study. The variable that is controlled for is
known as a covariate (Aron & Aron, 1999). The researchers initially planned to employ a Multivariate
Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) for this study. However, an initial analysis revealed that the
dependent measures (EOM-EIS, PAQ, and Locus of control measure) were not correlated. According
to the authors, “ANCOVA, as opposed to multivariate analysis of variance, was used because the
correlations between the dependent measures were either not significant or only moderately significant”
(p.406). The authors contended that when level of education was controlled for, few differences among
ethnic groups were observed. However, results clearly showed that ethnic minorities were significantly
more likely to be foreclosed than their White American counterparts.
Consistent with prior research, Markstrom-Adams and Adams found that ethnic minority group
members were more foreclosed compared to White participants. In the review of literature, the authors
stated that, “movement from diffusion to identity achievement is associated with a greater sense of
psychological mastery, complexity and psychological internality” (p. 400). Implicit within this
statement is the notion that those who have an achieved identity are psychologically healthy while
individuals with a diffused or foreclosed identity are psychologically immature. Yet, the authors also
admit that the majority of studies on ego identity have been based on White subjects.
It is plausible that the construct of ego identity has been based on a Eurocentric conception of self,
whereby the individual espouses a value system characterized by beliefs such as individualism,
independence and autonomy. Markstrom-Adams and Adams point out the importance of making
“meaningful interpretations” of research findings with ethnic minorities. For example, they speculate
that cultural factors such as collectivism and interdependence may account for ethnic minority
participants scoring higher on foreclosed identity. Echoing this sentiment, Waterman (1988) asserted,
"few individuals from...societies outside of the western sphere of influence would be found with an
achieved identity" (p. 200). In light of prior research and theory, it is surprising that the authors do not
raise the possibility that ego identity, as a construct, may be culturally inappropriate for assessing
identity formation among ethnic minorities.
An additional concern related to the current study is that sweeping generalizations are made about ethnic
minorities based on a small sample (N =123) of high school students drawn from a community in the
Southwestern portion of the United States. This is especially surprising given that upon further analysis
of the research, some cells in the ANCOVA contained less than 10 participants. Moreover, it is unclear
why the authors did not consider employing a MANCOVA.
These findings perpetuate the view that majority group participants develop more psychologically
sophisticated identity statuses in comparison to their ethnic minority classmates. Given the mounting
research that suggests that the role of ethnicity in identity plays a critical role in psychosocial functioning
among ethnic minority students and adults, it seems reasonable that ego identity research with
participants from diverse ethnic groups be interpreted with caution.
While ego identity may be an appropriate construct for White Americans, it may be culturally biased
against members of diverse populations. Given the limitations of the ego identity, Phinney’s (1992)
measure of ethnic identity (Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure) may be suitable for use in conjunction
with the oft-used Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status (EOM-EIS) (Adams, 1986).
Writings by feminist and multicultural scholars illumine important insights about the research of the socalled experts of psychology who develop theories purporting to have a “one size fits all” or “top-down”
effect. Gilligan (1982), dismayed by the patriarchal nature of Kohlberg’s theory of development, wrote,
“implicitly adopting the male life as the norm, [psychology has] tried to fashion women out of masculine
cloth” (p. 6). Likewise, multicultural scholars have asserted psychology has often misinterpreted ethnic
group differences in research with diverse populations as evidence that minorities are “culturally
deprived,” “culturally deficient,” and “culturally disadvantaged.” These words have often been used to
explain differences between Whites and non-Whites on psychological measures.
*Note. This manuscript was originally written in 2001.
Aron, A., & Aron, E. (1999). Statistics for psychology (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice
Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton.
Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women's development. Harvard
University Press. Cambridge, MA.
Markstrom-Adams, C., & Adams, G. (1995). Gender, ethnic group, and grade differences in
psychosocial functioning during middle adolescence? Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24, 4,
Phinney, J. (1992). The Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure: A new scale for use with
adolescents and young adults from diverse groups. Journal of Adolescent Research, 7, 156-176.
Waterman, A. S. (1988). Identity status theory and Erikson's theory: Communalities and
differences. Developmental Review, 8, 185-208.
E S E A R C H
E P O R T
Effect of Ethnic Group Membership on
Ethnic Identity, Race-Related Stress, and
Quality of Life
SHAWN O. UTSEY
MARK H. CHAE
CHRISTA F. BROWN
Seton Hall University
This study examined the effect of ethnic group membership on ethnic identity, racerelated stress, and quality of life (QOL). The Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure, the
Index of Race Related Stress—Brief Version, and the World Health Organization Quality of Life—Brief Version were administered to 160 male and female participants from
3 ethnic groups (African American, Asian American, and Latino American). Results
indicated that African American participants had significantly higher race-related
stress, ethnic identity, and psychological QOL scores than did Asian and Latino American participants. A stepwise multiple regression analysis revealed that ethnic identity
and cultural racism were significant predictors of QOL and accounted for 16% of the
total variance for the entire sample.
• ethnic identity • racism • race-related stress • quality of life
A fundamental objective in ethnic identity
research has been to examine its relationship to indexes of psychological well-being
and adjustment among ethnic minority
group members (Phinney & Kohatsu, 1997).
Ongoing research over the past decade has
revealed a relationship between higher
scores on measures of ethnic identity and
higher levels of self-esteem (Goodstein &
Ponterotto, 1997), vocational maturity (Per-
• Shawn O. Utsey, Department of Human Development and Psychoeducational Studies, Howard
University; Mark H. Chae, Christa F. Brown, and Deborah Kelly, Department of Professional
Psychology and Family Therapy, Seton Hall University.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Shawn O. Utsey, School of Education, Department of Human Development and Psychoeducational Studies, Howard University,
2441 Fourth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20059. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
Vol. 8, No. 4, 366–377
Copyright 2002 by the Educational Publishing Foundation
1099-9809/02/$5.00 DOI: 10.1037//1099-9809.8.4.366
ETHNIC IDENTITY, RACE-RELATED STRESS,
ron, Vondracek, Skorikov, Tremblay, & Corbiere, 1998), psychological adjustment
(Phinney & Kohatsu, 1997), and spiritual
development (Chae, Kelly, Brown, &
Bolden, 2001). In addition to these important findings, researchers continue to examine other correlates of ethnic identity to
positive psychological functioning. Quality
of life (QOL), as a construct, has yet to be
examined as a correlate to ethnic identity.
As such, one objective of the present study
was to examine the relationship between
ethnic identity and QOL.
Ethnic group differences have also been
found in ethnic identity research whereby
African Americans have consistently been
shown to score higher on measures of ethnic
identity compared with other ethnic minority groups (e.g., Latino and Asian Americans) and majority group members (e.g.,
European Americans; see Phinney, 1992).
Some researchers have suggested that the
higher ethnic identity scores among African
Americans are the result of chronic exposure to racism and discrimination (Phinney,
DuPont, Espinosa, Revill, & Sanders, 1994).
Phinney et al. (1994) speculated, “when
one’s [ethnic] group faces rejection and discrimination, a common strategy, in order to
preserve one’s self-respect, is to reaffirm and
strengthen group identity, through movements, which stress ethnic pride” (p. 179). A
study by Utsey and Ponterotto (1996) revealed that scores on a measure of racerelated stress were significantly higher for
African American participants than they
were for Caucasian and Asian American participants. Consequently, a second purpose
of this study was to examine the effect of
ethnic group membership on race-related
stress and ethnic identity.
The term ethnicity is most often used to
refer to a group of people who have a distinct culture, shared historical identity, or a
national or religious identity (Carter, 1995).
Helms and Cook (1999) defined ethnicity as
“the national, regional, or tribal origins of
one’s oldest remembered ancestors and the
customs, traditions, and rituals (i.e., subjective culture) handed down by these ances-
tors, which among the ethnic group members, are assumed to be their culture” (p.
19). According to Yancey, Aneshensel, and
Driscoll (2001), ethnicity distinguishes individuals based on their membership in
groups with common social, cultural, and
historical heritage. On the basis of these
definitions and for the purpose of this study,
we use ethnicity to refer to individuals who
identify as African American, Asian American, and Latino/Latina. The use of the term
ethnicity in this context is appropriate because each of these groups, among themselves, have shared customs, traditions, rituals, and a common historical heritage.
Ethnic Identity Development
According to Bernal, Knight, Ocampo,
Garza, and Cota (1990), ethnic identity is
the set of ideals, values, behaviors, and attitudes one holds regarding one’s identity as a
member of a distinguishable social group.
Conceptually, ethnic identity serves as a
means to understand whether and to what
degree a person has explored the meaning
of his or her ethnicity (e.g., cultural values)
and developed a sense of commitment to his
or her ethnic heritage (Fischer & Moradi,
2001; Phinney, 1992). This process is a complex task of integrating values and beliefs of
the larger culture with the beliefs and traditions of one’s ethnic group. Smith (1991)
developed a model of ethnic identity based
on the premise that race, religion, and national origin are all potentially salient parts
of an individual’s ethnicity. She further posited that ethnic identity development is influenced by an individual’s majority or minority group membership, but more
importantly as a function of both positive
and negative contact with members of outgroups. In an effort to provide a coherent
system for conceptualizing the phenomena
of ethnic identity development, Phinney
(1993) developed a three-stage (or phase)
model of ethnic identity formation.
The first phase of Phinney’s (1993)
UTSEY, CHAE, BROWN,
model is unexamined ethnic identity, which is
characterized by the absence of exploration
of one’s ethnicity and an unequivocal acceptance of the values and beliefs of the majority society. Individuals at this phase show a
preference for White culture and, in turn, a
depreciation or rejection of their own culture. The next phase, ethnic identity search,
takes place when there is a “shocking personal or social event that temporarily dislodges the person from his or her worldview,
making the person receptive to a new interpretation of his or her identity” (Phinney,
1993, p. 69). This encounter may be initiated by experiences such as name-calling,
racial slurs, or other acts of discrimination.
As a result, an individual becomes committed to gaining a deeper understanding and
increasing his or her knowledge about his or
her cultural heritage, beliefs, and history.
The final phase, achieved ethnic identity, is
characterized by a clear and confident sense
of one’s own ethnicity. At this phase, individuals not only hold positive attitudes regarding their own ethnic group but typically
also feel a deep sense of belonging (Phinney, 1990).
Race-related stress occurs as the result of
both acute and chronic encounters with racism and discrimination (Utsey & Ponterotto,
1996). Harrell (2000) provided a more
elaborate definition of race-related stress;
she described it as “The race-related transactions between individuals or groups and
their environment that emerge from the dynamics of racism, and that tax or exceed
existing individual and collective resources
or threaten well-being” (p. 45). Clark,
Anderson, Clark, and Williams (1999) noted
that the stress response associated with racism and discrimination, like general stress
responses, is inextricably linked to an individual’s coping mechanisms (e.g., strategies,
resources, cognitive ability, and personality
traits). There are both psychological and
physiological consequences associated with
the stress response.
A number of scholars have elucidated
the exact physiological and psychological
mechanisms associated with the stress response in relation to racism and discrimination (see Clark et al., 1999; Harrell, 2000;
Outlaw, 1993). At the psychological level,
perceptions of a stressful situation that taxes
or exceeds one’s ability to cope may result in
feelings of anger, anxiety, paranoia, helplessness-hopelessness, frustration, resentment, and fear. Physiological responses to
psychological stress occur as a result of unsuccessful coping responses. The primary
physiological stress response involves immune, neuroendocrine, and cardiovascular
The conceptualization and assessment of
race-related stress require careful attention
to the multidimensional and ubiquitous nature of racism (Harrell, 1995; Utsey, 1999).
To this end, Jones’s (1997) tripartite model
of racism has served, in part, as the theoretical premise for racism’s multidimensionality. According to Jones, racism can occur at
three levels: individual, institutional, and
cultural racism. Individual racism refers to racial prejudice that occurs in the context of
face-to-face interactions. This may include
personal acts intended to denigrate or humiliate an individual because of his or her
racial group membership. Institutional racism
refers to racial prejudice embedded within
social institutions that manifest in social
policies, norms, and practices. Cultural racism refers to a patterned way of thinking or
a worldview that perpetuates the belief that
the cultural values, traditions, and beliefs of
one’s own cultural/ethnic group (usually
the dominant group) are superior to those
of other cultures. This type of racism limits,
pathologizes, or devalues cultural values and
practices that differ from the majority
Several researchers have noted that the
chronic exposure to racial stressors has a
deleterious effect on African Americans
(Broman, 1997; Harrell, 1995; Jones, 1997;
Utsey, 1999). Indeed, some have found a
ETHNIC IDENTITY, RACE-RELATED STRESS,
connection between race-related stress and
medical ailments such as hypertension, high
blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease
(Fray, 1993; Krieger & Sidney, 1996). In addition, indexes of psychological well-being
have been found to be negatively correlated
with stress due to racial discrimination
among African Americans (Broman, 1997;
Clark et al., 1999). Likewise, Simpson and
Yinger (1985) found that African Americans
who were exposed to chronic race-related
stressors reported low levels of self-esteem.
In another study with African American participants, Philipp (1998) found that experiences of racial discrimination were ostensibly related to low levels of life satisfaction.
Last, a study by Holder and Vaux (1998)
demonstrated that job satisfaction among
African Americans decreased with the increased perceptions of race-related stressors
in the workplace.
It is noteworthy to point out that the majority of research on race-related stress has
focused on African Americans. This study
seeks to add to the literature by assessing
race-related stress as experienced by African
Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans.
Quality of Life
QOL, as a construct, is becoming increasingly recognized in the medical and psychological literature as an important indicator
of physical and psychological well-being (Utsey, Bolden, Brown, & Chae, 2001). The
World Health Organization (WHO) Group
(1994) defined quality of life as “an individual’s perception of their position in life in the
context of the culture and value system in
which they live and in relation to their goals,
expectations, standards, and concerns”
The WHO Group (1998) proposed four
distinct domains of quality of life: physical,
psychological, social relationships, and environment. The physical domain is concerned
with the unpleasant sensations that may
cause distress and interfere with the routines
of daily life. The psychological domain considers the degree in which an individual
feels contentment, a sense of well-being, and
balance. In the ...
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