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American identity crisis: The relation between national, social, and personal identity in a multiethnic sample

Liliana Rodriguez, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study investigated meanings ascribed to "American Identity" and how they relate to identity in general. The sample was 326 Black ( n = 79), Latino (n = 189), and White (n = 58) college students residing in Miami, Florida. The meanings of American Identity were based on four qualitative questions which were coded thematically: characteristics that define the typical American, characteristics that describe how one is American, qualities that make one not American, and degree to which one feels American. Chi-squares indicated few differences in defining American identity. Ethnic minorities (M = 61.56, SD = 28.05) felt less American than Whites (M = 74.09, SD = 24.35) and that, regardless of their citizenship, they are not perceived as Americans. Hierarchical linear regressions revealed that a stronger ethnic identity was related to feeling less American (β = -.17, p < .05). For Latinos, heritage culture was related to less positive responses to overall qualities of American identity and the extent to which they felt American (respectively, β = -.75, p <.05 and β = -.16, p <.01). For Blacks, stronger orientation toward interdependence was related to less positive evaluation overall traits that make one an American, (β = -.18, p <.05). Responses suggested that participants believe that, to be American, one must sacrifice a connection to family and community. Personal identity was the most consistent predictor of American identity (β = .14, p < .05). A secure sense of self seems to help young people make sense of their social world and manage difficult choices about their identity.

Subject Area

Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Rodriguez, Liliana, "American identity crisis: The relation between national, social, and personal identity in a multiethnic sample" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3315530.