A typology of cultural group identification in African American students attending a predominantly White university

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Blaine J. Fowers - Committee Chair


Research and theory on cultural and racial issues tend to vacillate between overemphasizing group differences which risks stereotyping, and overemphasizing universal features of humans that may neglect important intragroup differences. This study addresses this dilemma by exploring whether there are identifiable subtypes of African American responses to living in a predominantly White society. This approach takes intragroup variability seriously while concurrently recognizing the need to address important aspects of African Americans' experience. The study included 107 African American students at a predominantly White university. Participants included 27 men and 80 women, ranging in age from 18 to 48. The complexity of the relationships between cultural factors was examined through an exploratory cluster analysis to determine if subgroups of African American students could be identified on the basis of cultural group identification variables. Clustering was based upon self-report instruments measuring racial identity development, racelessness, acculturation, and socioeconomic status. A 4-cluster solution was chosen as the most appropriate for the data based on results of a hierarchical agglomerative cluster analysis and a series of k-means cluster analyses. The final clusters were labeled "Distanced", "Integrated", "Transitional", and "Culture-Neutral". The most salient feature of the Distanced cluster is elevated reported feelings of alienation from the culture of origin. The Integrated cluster consists of students for whom ethnicity is one of multiple, equally important identities. The Transitional cluster is distinguished by turmoil regarding ethnic issues as they adjust to a predominantly White educational environment. The Culture-Neutral group is marked by the absence of racial issues as a salient concern. The validity of the 4-cluster solution was further assessed by analyses of variance comparing groups on the criterion variables of anxiety and depression, which identified significant differences between groups. There appear to be identifiable subgroups of African American students and these results add nuance and complexity to our understanding of this group. This study raises issues for further research and emphasizes the need to approach research on ethnic groups in a manner that addresses the depth and complexity of within-group heterogeneity.


Education, Bilingual and Multicultural; Black Studies; Psychology, Social; Education, Educational Psychology

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