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The number of interracial marriages in the United States, as well as the number of interracial individuals, has steadily increased since the 1967 Supreme Court repeal of laws barring interracial marriages (Root, 1992; Wardle, 1987). In response to a long-term debate over the addition of a multiracial category for the 2000 census (Rockquemore and Brunsma, 2002), a compromise was made that allowed respondents to select multiple racial categories, resulting in approximately 2% of the population self-identifying as multiracial (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). Despite these figures, this segment of the population remains largely invisible in the area of scholarly research. Much of the literature on biracial or multiracial populations tends to be theoretical (Phinney, 1990), and the limited empirical work has been based largely on small clinical samples or samples recruited via snowball sampling techniques (Phinney and Alipuria, 1996).
Given the growing visibility of biracial families in society, it is critical to learn more about the developmental outcomes of adolescents within these families, specifically with regard to their psychological adjustment. Understanding the complexity and impact of diversity on adolescent development should be at the forefront of our priorities. Two interrelated psychological factors in need of more in-depth examination among biracial adolescents are ethnic identity and self-esteem. Despite the fact that self-esteem, as an evaluative measure of psychosocial adjustment, is linked to major mental health outcomes, researchers have not focused on examining the self-esteem of biracial adolescents. Both identity development and the maintenance of self-esteem are critical and interactional processes that occur during adolescence whose dynamic nature provides important implications for individuals' development over the life course (Helms, 1995; Phinney, 1992). Given the changing demographics of the United States, it is important to begin to explore the relationship between ethnic identity and self-esteem among biracial people.
As such, this paper presents a review of the existing literature on self-esteem among individuals with parents of 2 different races (i.e., White, Black, Latino, and Asian) and attempts to fill in the existing gaps with empirical data that allow the examination of ethnic identity and self-esteem in a representative sample of biracial adolescents. Although Latinos represent members of an ethnic group, not a racial group, Latinos are included as a separate racial group in this study for a number of reasons. Because of different cultural and societal experiences, Latinos are not typically grouped with Whites or Blacks in existing research (e.g., Martinez and Dukes, 1997; Phinney, 1992; Phinney and Alipuria, 1996; Smith et al., 1999; Spencer et al., 2000), although they may share racial (i.e., phenotypic) characteristics. Given that race is a social construction (e.g., Helms, 1994; Omi and Winant, 1994; Rockquemore and Brunsma, 2002; Rodriguez, 2000; Spickard, 1992) and that Latinos in the United States are often socially constructed to be separate from Whites and Blacks (e.g., Denton and Massey, 1989; Martin et al., 1990; Rodriguez, 1990, 1992, 2000), the current study includes Latinos as a separate racial group.
Indisputably, self-esteem has been one of the most widely studied aspects of the self. Several theorists (e.g., Coopersmith, 1967; James, 1980; Rosenberg, 1979) have defined this construct and, while varying definitions exist, all refer to individuals' personal feelings of worth. In the current study, self-esteem refers to a positive or negative orientation toward the self (Rosenberg, 1979). That is, self-esteem refers to "a personal judgment of worthiness that is expressed in the attitudes the individual holds toward himself [or herself]" (Coopersmith, 1967, p. 5).
During adolescence, individuals undergo several changes (e.g., physical, cognitive, and social) and encounter new experiences (e.g., new social demands) that may influence their psychological well-being in various ways. In the midst of these experiences, and given that self-esteem is commonly considered an index of psychological well-being (Kao, 1999; Phinney, 1991), understanding issues related to youth's self-esteem has been one of the most important areas of study in mental health research. Researchers have repeatedly used self-esteem as a proxy for adolescents' psychological adjustment (Phinney, 1991), psychological well-being (Benjet and Hernandez-Guzman, 2001; Kao, 1999; Martinez and Dukes, 1997), and positive mental health (Rosenberg, 1967).
It is important to note that this study will use the term self-concept to refer to self-esteem in those instances where previous studies have done so. Elsewhere, the term self-esteem will be used in order to more accurately represent the construct under the current investigation. Theorists suggest that self-concept refers to the description that one attaches to one's self, while self-esteem refers to one's negative, positive, or neutral appraisal of that description (King, 1997). However, these terms have been used interchangeably in numerous studies (e.g., Buri, 1989; Filozof et al., 1998; Watkins and Yu, 2001) and, as such, both have been included in the literature reviewed for this study.
Much of the research on biracial identity is grounded in social identity theory (Tajfel, 1974), which states that people are classified into distinguishable groups dependent on socially meaningful similarities. This theory, coupled with the dominant social norms regarding hypodescent (i.e., the "one drop rule" of racial classification), led early researchers who were studying biracial individuals to classify this population according to their minority status because that is how the dominant society perceived them (Davis, 1978; Rockquemore and Brunsma, 2002; Root, 1992; Wardle, 1987). Furthermore, researchers assumed that biracial individuals' marginal status as outsiders to either racial category would cause them distress and low self-esteem (Park, 1928; Stonequist, 1961; Teicher, 1968). In addition, biracial individuals were expected to contend with more complex race-related behaviors based on their multiple backgrounds (Helms, 1995), and this complexity led to the expectation that mixed-race children would have identity problems and that their racial identity would negatively affect their self-esteem (Brown, 1990; Williams and Thornton, 1998). Thus, early work on biracial adolescents assumed them to have low self-esteem, and attributed it to a marginalized status.
Later research on biracial individuals revealed that they are not a homogenous group and may choose to identify as White, as minority, or as a unique bicultural combination, and that these processes are dynamic and related to self-esteem (Helms, 1995). Researchers in the area of racial identity are divided as to whether positive self-esteem is derived from strong feelings of group-belonging, or whether low self-esteem is a result of identification with a stigmatized social group (Rockquemore and …