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Association of ethnic identity and perceived discrimination with risk behaviors for multi-ethnic emerging adults




Wensink, Jamie M., author
Le, Thao, advisor
Swaim, Randall, committee member
Palermo, Francisco, committee member
MacPhee, David, committee member

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The purpose of this study is to gain insight about the risk behaviors of multiethnic emerging adults by exploring whether ethnic identity and perceived discrimination are associated with individuals’ participation in risk behaviors. Risk behaviors include unsafe sex, drug and alcohol use, and co-occurring risk behaviors including car-related risk behaviors. The sample of participants were selected from the original sample of approximately 10,500 college students in the Multi-site University Study of Identity and Culture (MUSIC) who are part of the emerging adult population, 17-25 years old. With the increased complexity of multi-ethnic emerging adults having to navigate through multiple identities, it was hypothesized that (1) multi-ethnic emerging adults engage in more risk behaviors than mono-ethnic emerging adults; (2) multi-ethnic emerging adults score lower on ethnic identity and higher on perceived discrimination than mono-ethnic emerging adults; (3) ethnic identity is negatively associated with and perceived discrimination will be positively associated with the risk behaviors among multi-ethnic and mono-ethnic emerging adults; and (4) the relation between ethnicity classification for emerging adults and risky behaviors is mediated by ethnic identity and perceived discrimination. The following measures were used: Ethnic Identity Scale, Perceived Discrimination Subscale from the Scale of Ethnic Experience, and Risk Behavior Questions. Analyses consisted of correlations, r-tests, and regressions. Results revealed that multi-ethnic emerging adults did not score higher on risk behaviors as compared to mono-ethnic emerging adults. On the other hand, results did reveal that multi-ethnic emerging adults scored higher on perceived discrimination, which supports the second hypothesis. Correlation analyses for mono-ethnic emerging adults revealed that ethnic identity exploration, affirmation, and resolution were negatively associated with all risk behaviors. In addition, perceived discrimination was positively associated with correlated risks. For multi-ethnic emerging adults, there were negative associations among the following: ethnic identity exploration with alcohol-related risks; ethnic identity affirmation with all risk behaviors; and ethnic identity resolutions with total risk behaviors. However, perceived discrimination was not positively associated with risk behaviors. Furthermore, mono-ethnic classification was found to be associated with alcohol-related risk behaviors, which was contrary to expectations. Mediation results suggested that perceived discrimination was possibly a full mediator; however, the Sobel test statistic revealed that it was not statistically significant. Further investigation is needed to untangle the relationship between mono- vs. multi-ethnic identification and risk outcomes, as well as the processes and mechanisms associated with the connection.


Covers not scanned.
Print version deaccessioned 2022.

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Racially mixed people -- Race identity -- United States
Risk-taking (Psychology)
Ethnicity -- United States


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