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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.