Ethnic identity and its relationship to self-esteem and attitudes toward other ethnic groups

Melinda Ann Parisi, Fordham University


Considerable theoretical attention has been given to understanding the role of ethnic identity in the well-being and attitudes of people from different ethnic groups. However, empirical research in these areas has been inconsistent or lacking. For example, conceptual writing about ethnic identity has hypothesized a positive relationship between ethnic identity and self-esteem. However, research examining this relationship has produced inconsistent results. Similarly, a key proposition in the ethnic identity literature is that higher ethnic identity is related to more positive attitudes toward members of other racial/ethnic groups, despite the absence of supporting evidence. This study examined the relationships between ethnic identity and self-esteem among participants from various racial/ethnic groups. In addition, it explored the relationships between ethnic identity and attitudes toward minorities and contact with diverse groups, and between ethnic identity and attitudes toward Whites. Participants were 254 undergraduate and graduate students from four colleges/universities in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Students completed a series of instruments measuring ethnic identity, self-esteem, attitudes toward minority issues and multicultural contact, attitudes toward Whites, and a social desirability scale. Results of Pearson product-moment correlations revealed that for the total sample, ethnic identity was positively related to self-esteem. However, this relationship differed for various racial/ethnic groups. Ethnic identity and self-esteem were uncorrelated among members of racial/ethnic minority groups and among White participants who did not specify their ethnicity. These constructs were positively correlated among Jewish participants and Whites who identified their ethnicity. The results of a hierarchical multiple regression analysis showed that ethnic identity and racial/ethnic group membership contributed to the prediction of self-esteem, but that the interaction between these two variables did not add to the prediction of self-esteem. Regarding racial/ethnic attitudes, Pearson product-moment correlations revealed no relationship between ethnic identity and attitudes toward minorities or multicultural issues. Among White participants, ethnic identity was not related to attitudes toward personal contact with members of diverse groups; these constructs were negatively related among racial/ethnic minority participants. Similarly, ethnic identity was negatively related to attitudes toward Whites. Implications of these findings for counseling, prejudice prevention programs, and future research were discussed.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling|Cognitive therapy|Social psychology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Parisi, Melinda Ann, "Ethnic identity and its relationship to self-esteem and attitudes toward other ethnic groups" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9830597.