Biracial Japanese American identity: An evolving process

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This qualitative study explored the complexity of biracial identity development in Japanese Americans. It is based on the constant comparable method of analysis, or grounded theory. The study focused on how Japanese Americans perceived themselves in relation to other individuals, groups, and their environment. The data consisted of 15 extensive semistructured interviews with 8 men and 7 women (ages 20 to 40 years), each with 1 Japanese parent and 1 non-Asian parent. Findings relate to participants' initiating explorations of identity and perseverance in pursuing a biracial identity, which depended on the degree of support or negative experience within their social networks. Participants explored identity options attempting to develop their own meaning of identity, to develop a confident sense of themselves, and to secure a positive ethnic identity. Identity development among participants varied. It was a long-term process involving changes in the individual-environment relationship, which differed in the way individual participants influenced or selected from environmental opportunities, even creating or recreating some aspects. Within a given setting, as youths, the potential for social experiences were relatively fixed and changed only gradually. As adults, there were opportunities for participants to select their own social and geographic settings, providing opportunity for change. In their new environments, participants were exposed to new contacts and role models, acquired new behavioral repertoire, and underwent role transitions. Depending on this, new and different aspects of biracial identity developed. Participants indicated it was an emotional and conflictual process to positive assertion of identity. Before reaching this, all of the participants experienced periods of confusion. Most asserted biracial identity gradually, through a process of racial identity development consisting of the individual's changing or maintaining certain reference group perspectives, identifications, and allegiances as they passed through a series of life experiences. Instead of staying marginalized, they integrated both cultures, recognizing positive values of both, thus developing an integrated identity. Although the participants' experiences and perceptions were varied, the overarching themes of self-evaluation, confusion of categorization, belonging, infusion/exploration, situational use of identity, and resolution/acceptance/self-verification were presented. On the basis of the research, a model of ethnic identity for biracial individuals is proposed.


This article was originally published in Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology


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