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5.3.7: AAPI and Biracial/Multiracial Identity Development

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    Asian American Identity Development Model (Jean Kim, 1981, 2001)

    This framework identifies a continuum that leads Asian Americans to form a positive racial identity. 

    1. Ethnic Awareness Stage: Starts in early childhood around age 3 or 4. At this stage the family serves as the significant ethnic group model and depending on the amount of ethnic expression in the household, positive or neutral attitudes are formed. 

    2. White Identification Stage: Begins once children enter school and peers and the school environment become powerful forces in conveying and reinforcing racial prejudice, which starts to negatively impact their self-esteem and identity. Becoming aware of their difference leads to wanting to identify with white society and distance themselves from their Asian heritage. 

    3. Awakening to Social Political Consciousness Stage: Means the 

    adoption of a new perspective, usually associated with increased political awareness and an understanding of oppression and oppressed groups. The primary result is no longer wanting to identify with white society. 

    4. The Redirection Stage: Characterized by a reconnection and pride with one’s Asian American heritage and culture. This is often followed by a realization of white privilege and oppression as the reason for the negative experience of Asian communities. Anger about white racism may be a part of this stage. 

    5. Incorporation Stage: Represents the highest form of identity evolution. It includes a positive and comfortable identity as Asian American and a respect for other racial/cultural groups. The feelings of association for or against white culture are no longer an important issue. 


    Kim, J. (1981). Processes of Asian American identity development: A study of Japanese American women’s perceptions of their struggle to achieve positive identities as Americans of Asian ancestry. Doctoral Dissertation University of Massachusetts Amherst. Available from Proquest. AAI8118010. 

    Kim, J. (2001). Asian American racial identity theory. In C. L. Wijeyesinghe & B. W. Jackson III (Eds.), New Perspectives on Racial Identity Development: A Theoretical and Practical Anthology (pp. 138-161). New York University Press 

    Bi- or Multiracial Identity Development

    Originally, people thought that bi-racial individuals followed the development model of minority individuals, but given that we now know that race and the meanings about race are socially constructed, it makes sense to realize that a person of mixed racial ancestry is likely to be viewed differently (from both the dominant culture and the individual’s own culture) than a minority individual. Thus, they are likely to experience a social reality unique to their experience. The following five-stage model is derived from the work of W.S. Carlos Poston.

    Knowing more about various types of identities and some common experiences of how dominant and nondominant identities are formed prepares us to delve into more specifics about why difference matters.

    • Stage 1: Personal Identity. Poston’s first stage is much like the unexamined identity stage in the previous two models. Again, children are not aware of race as a value-based social category and derive their personal identity from individual personality features instead of cultural ones.
    • Stage 2: Group Categorization. In the move from stage one to two, the person goes from no racial or cultural awareness to having to choose between one or the other. In a family where the father is Black and the mother is Japanese, the child may be asked by members of both families to decide if he or she is Black or Japanese. Choosing both is not an option in this stage.
    • Stage 3: Enmeshment/Denial. Following the choice made in stage two, individuals attempt to immerse themselves in one culture while denying ties to the other. This process may result in guilt or feelings of distance from the parent and family whose culture was rejected in stage two. If these feelings are resolved then the child moves to the next stage. If not, they remain here.
    • Stage 4: Appreciation. When feelings of guilt and anger are resolved the person can work to appreciate all of the cultures that shape their identity. While there is an attempt to learn about the diversity of their heritage, they will still identify primarily with the culture chosen in stage two.
    • Stage 5: Integration. In the fifth and final stage the once fragmented parts of the person’s identity are brought together to create a unique whole. There is integration of cultures throughout all facets of the person’s life—dress, food, holidays, spirituality, language, and communication.


    5.1.1: Foundations of Culture and Identity is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Tom Grothe.

    This page titled 5.3.7: AAPI and Biracial/Multiracial Identity Development is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Jennifer Ounjian.

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