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Jean S. Phinney 
Irma Romero 
Monica Nava 
Dan Huang 
To construct a model of the influences on ethnic identity among adolescents in immigrant families, we surveyed adolescents and their parents from 81 Armenian families, 47 Vietnamese families, and 88 Mexican families. Adolescents completed measures of ethnic language proficiency, in-group peer social interaction, and ethnic identity. Parents completed a measure of support for cultural maintenance. Across all groups, ethnic language proficiency and in-group peer interaction predicted ethnic identity, and parental cultural maintenance predicted adolescent ethnic language proficiency. However, because of differences among the groups, a separate model was required for each ethnic group. The results suggest both common processes and group differences in the factors that influence ethnic identity.
Adolescents from immigrant backgrounds face complex issues of adaptation involving both their culture of origin and the culture of the new country (Berry, 1997; Rumbaut, 1994). As part of this experience, they develop an identity as a member of an ethnic group within the larger society, that is, an ethnic identity (Phinney, 1989, 1990). The issue of ethnic identity is particularly salient for adolescents whose parents are immigrants (Rumbaut, 1994). On the one hand, these young people have grown up with, and been socialized by, parents who carry with them the language, values, and customs from their country of origin and are likely to retain these characteristics throughout their lives (McCoy, 1992). On the other hand; the adolescents have been educated in the American school system, which emphasizes English proficiency and American customs. Furthermore, in ethnically diverse schools and communities, adolescents are likely to interact with peers both from their own ethnic group and from other cultures.
The differences between the two cultures present these adolescents with many choices in areas such as cultural practices, language use, and friendship. Both the values and attitudes expressed by their parents and those they encounter among their peers are likely to play a role in the formation of ethnic identity for these youth. There has, however, been relatively little research on factors that influence ethnic identity in adolescents. Recent psychological research on ethnic identity has focused largely on the implications of ethnic identity; this research has consistently shown the positive relationship of ethnic identity to a variety of psychological outcomes including self-esteem (Phinney, 1992; Phinney et al., 1997; Roberts et al., 1999), ego identity (Markstrom et al., 1998), and school involvement (Taylor et al., 1994). Because of the important role of ethnic identity in psychological wellbeing, it is important to understand the variables that contribute to its development and maintenance.
To study ethnic identity, it is essential to begin with a clear definition of what is meant by the concept. Ethnic identity has been conceptualized and measured in a wide variety of ways, often without basis in theory (Phinney, 1990). Recent research with adolescents (Roberts et al., 1999) suggests two theoretically based elements to ethnic identity, a group membership component and a developmental component. The first component, termed ethnic affirmation and belonging (Phinney, 1992), is based on social identity theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1986). As an aspect of one's social identity, ethnic identity can be thought of as a subjective sense of belonging to an ethnic group and the feelings and attitudes that accompany this sense of group membership (Phinney, 1990). According to social identity theory, this sense of belonging is implicated in the psychological well-being of ethnic group members. Because people attribute value to the groups they belong to and derive self-esteem from their sense of belonging, eth nic affirmation plays an important role in their self-concept.
A second component of ethnic identity involves the extent to which adolescents have engaged in the developmental process of ethnic identity exploration. With the onset of adolescence, as part of the larger task of ego identity formation (Erikson, 1968), most minority youths explore the meaning of being a member of an ethnic group within a larger society (Phinney, 1989). This process may include learning about the history and traditions of their group and confronting issues of discrimination and prejudice. Adolescents may discuss such issues with their parents or others as part of this exploration process. Ideally the process culminates in an achieved ethnic identity, characterized by clarity about oneself as an ethnic group member. This sense of self is assumed to be a source of personal strength and positive self-evaluation (Phinney and Kohatsu, 1997).
By assessing these core elements of ethnic identity, we can examine the relationship of ethnic identity to factors that may contribute to its development and maintenance. In the present study, we examined the importance of 3 factors that are assumed to influence ethnic identity among adolescents from immigrant families: ethnic language proficiency, cultural maintenance by parents, and social interaction with peers from the same ethnic group. Prior research has typically examined these variables separately in relation to ethnic identity, but to our knowledge no studies have examined these factors together. In addition, most research has been carried out with a single ethnic group. In the present study, families from 3 immigrant groups were studied in order to determine whether these influences on ethnic identity operate in the same way across groups.
Language is perhaps the most frequently cited contributor to ethnic identity (Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey, 1990; Hurtado and Gurin, 1995; Miller and Hoogstra, 1992). Giles et al. (1977) state that "Ingroup speech can serve as a symbol of ethnic identity and cultural solidarity. It is used for reminding the group about its cultural heritage, for transmitting group feelings, and for excluding members of the outgroup from its internal transactions" (p. 307). However, these authors and others (e.g., Edwards and Chisholm, 1987) also point out that language is not necessary for group identity; there are situations and groups where language is not an important aspect of identity. Recent research reveals conflicting findings regarding the importance of language, largely because of both different methodologies and differences in the specific situation of the groups studied (Imbens-Bailey, 1996). Studies from Canada, where much recent research has been conducted, may not be comparable to the situation in the United Stat es, because of different immigration history and different policies, such as the official bilingualism of Canada (Feuerverger, 1991; Lanca et al., 1994).
In the United States, acquisition of English has been assumed to be essential for the integration of immigrants and their children into American society. In contrast, the value of retention of the ethnic language has been debated throughout U.S. history. Immigrants who have sought to retain their language have often been met with negative attitudes in the dominant culture (Crawford, 1992; Gerber, 1991). Currently, with the foreign-born residents representing 8% of the total population, the issue of ethnic language retention continues to be controversial (Rumbaut and Cornelius, 1995). However, there is increasing evidence that knowledge and usage of the ethnic language has a positive effect on developmental outcomes for adolescents in immigrant families. For example, recent studies with adolescents from several …