Proposal for Study: Is society causing biracial children to struggle with their identity?
When forming their identity, children seek to look, act, feel, and mimic significant people in their social environment. "In his book Youth and Identity, Erickson relates ego identity and self-esteem to racial identity. He states that ambiguous messages about one's race may place a person at risk for developing what he referred to as a 'negative identity'" (Oka, 1994, p. 3). The possibility of negative identity is a controversial topic regarding biracial children. Opponents of interracial marriage argue that interracial couples are jeopardizing the futures of their children, as there is a possibility that biracial children will not be accepted by either culture and this rejection will lead to personal problems.
Some studies have found that it is more likely for interracial children to experience difficulties related to a poor self-identity, such as gender confusion, self-hatred, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, delinquency and alienation. Yet other studies have found interracial youth to show high levels of creativity, adaptability, and resiliency" (Hoskins, 1996).
Racism is a developed set of attitudes that include antagonism based on the supposed superiority of one group or on the supposed inferiority of another group, premised solely on skin color or race" (Beswick, 1990). Racism is an important issue as it can undermine the self-esteem of children. These feelings of low self-worth can cause a child to think that he or she does not measure-up to their peers (Stipek, 1993). As a result, these children are less likely to pursue challenging environments. Ultimately, society loses a valuable contributing force in society, an individual who strives to reach his or her own potential.
Racism pervades just about every culture in the United States. "It seems that interracial marriage has touched our deepest resentment of being betrayed by Chinese women who are supposed to make commitment only to us" (Guang, 1995). "Biracial children may face oppression from the Asian group which identifies the child by the ethnicity of the non-Asian parent. The group may view the child as the product of 'racial pollution'" (Oka, 1994, p. 7).
Many experts believe that interracial children and adolescents experience unique identity problems. "The results of studies on ethnic and racial identity indicate that children are aware that there differences by the time they are four years old. At the same time, or soon thereafter, they also become aware of their own ethnicity and form judgments about it" (Cole and Cole, 1993, p. 369). In many cases, when interracial adolescents go through identity formation, society makes them feel a need to choose one racial identity.
Many biracial children find that society treats them as unique or exotic. Adults and children are curious about their race and often inquire about it. Sometimes the attention is positive; sometimes it is negative. Some biracial children grow up to be well adjusted and learn to fit into a variety of different social and cultural groups. Others develop psychological problems due to society's treatment.
In conclusion, an interracial child is not preordained to experience conflict as a result of their mixed heritage. If society is open and communicative about both or all the cultures that have come together to create this child, the child can grow up to appreciate diversity in themselves and in others. It is important for "all children to grow up rejecting prejudice, fear, and hatred, and instead be open to the fascinating qualities people of every color and culture have to offer" (Oka, p. 13).
Because these prejudices exist in society as a whole, it is likely that educators and counselors hold some of them as well, even if only unconsciously (Schwartz, 1997). In this case, it is inevitable that biracial students will perceive such attitudes, and develop a negative image that compromises their sense of self and their personal ability to succeed. For this reason, it is important for people working with biracial children to consider their personal views, especially because of the significant worth that children place on their approval. Educators and counselors must convey love, support, and acceptance to biracial students.
Unfortunately, the families of biracial children often reject them, and their mothers may even have ambivalent feelings toward them. In many cases, very young biracial children are abandoned by their parents who, plagued by personal difficulties, are overwhelmed by the challenges of raising children who may have more than the usual set of needs. Schwartz (1997) discusses a study of such children whose problems were handled by social service departments, which, ignorant of the unique problems of biracial children, assigned them to inappropriate foster homes. This case shows just how important it is for service providers to understand biracial children.
Existing literature reveals that he process of developing an identity is an especially complicated process for biracial children and adolescents (Schwartz, 1997). Factors unique to their diverse heritages that influence the process of identity formation include the need of biracial individuals to select a personal and family identity that represents their own attitudes. Therefore, it is apparent that we need to discuss a specific question: How is society causing biracial children to struggle with their identity and what can be done to change this?
Variables and Hypothesis
For the purpose of this paper, I will a general conceptual model to identify independent and dependent variables and show their basic relationships to one another. Dependent variables are the outcomes of the study. They are the things that are under observation in the study. In this case, the dependent variable is the effects that society has on the identity of biracial children. Independent variables are those manipulated by the study. This means the variables that the researcher manipulates, or changes, in the study. In this case, the independent variables are as follows: family, support from teachers and counselors and attitudes toward diversity.
Existing literature demonstrates that society holds many prejudices that cause biracial children to struggle with their identity. However, by varying such things as family, support from teachers and counselors and attitudes toward diversity, we will see how each independent variable produces a different effect. On the other hand, we might find that although we change the factors involved, the effect does not change dramatically. Or, we might find that changing the circumstances just a little makes an even greater impact than expected. The factors that we change is the independent variable, the variable that the researcher controls, and the effect that results from changing it is the dependent variable, the change that is caused by the independent variable.
This paper hypothesizes that biracial children are more likely to experience difficulties with their identity than children of a single race due to societal opinion. It is a well-known fact that sense of group identity as well as personal identity gives a child a sense of belonging. A group identity often stems from whatever a child's family considers important in defining who is "like us." Creating a strong and positive group identity is very important when children are part of a group others value less, such as biracial families.
In a society that groups families by race, many biracial families fear that their children will be misunderstood or discriminated against because they do not fit into one racial group or another. This is a valid concern. Children who learn from society that they are inferior because of racism and other biases learn to feel shame about their identity. many internalize negative messages while others try to overcome them. As a result, however, many children grow up feeling bad about their skin color or the cultural traditions of their family. However, this paper hypothesizes that, by developing cultural awareness, especially through education and counseling, society can counter this ugly habit of discriminating against biracial children.
In a society that is increasingly race conscious, the question of where people of biracial heritage fit into the equation poses unique problems, both for those individuals and for society as a whole. As members of racial groups become more polarized, and conversations about race become more intense, biracial groups find themselves under pressure to choose a group. They are constantly being asked to make choices about their identity as human beings. For children, this can be confusing and harmful to the formation of their identity. Thus, this issue needs to be addressed by biracial youth and the educational professionals who will be helping them to create, define, and affirm their racial identity as they grow up.
In this paper, I will demonstrate how society affects the identity formation of interracial children and has an effect on social cognition and self-image. The ultimate goal of this paper is to produce a series of recommendations for helping biracial children build a positive racial identity through social acceptance.
In the past few decades, people have been more actively responsive to political and personal pressures to identify with a specific group that shares their background. For the ever-increasing number of individuals of biracial individuals living…