Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Educational and Psychological Studies (Education)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

MarieGuerda Nicolas

Second Committee Member

Robert McMahon

Third Committee Member

Nicholas Myers

Fourth Committee Member

Anabel Bejarano


As diversity increases in the U.S., there is a pressing need to understand ethnic identity development in children, particularly in relation to psychological well-being. Previous studies document the importance of ethnic identity development and its influence on positive development, psychological well-being, and academic adjustment in children, particularly from ethnically diverse backgrounds (Booker; 2006; Phinney, 1990, 1995; Thomson & Zand, 2005). However, limited research investigates the relationship between ethnic identity and the well-being of school-aged children, particularly during middle childhood (García Coll & Marks, 2009; Phinney, 1990). This exploratory study sought provide greater understanding of ethnic identity development in children, as well as to fill the gaps in the literature by examining the link between ethnic identity development and well-being in children, including self-concept, self-esteem, hope, and academic self-efficacy. One hundred and thirty-eight children between the ages of 8-12 were recruited for the study. Parametric and nonparametric tests were conducted to look at the study variables of racial and ethnic awareness, perceived discrimination, ethnic identity development and psychological well-being. Overall, this study found that children as young as eight reported experiencing ethnic discrimination and are aware of racial and ethnic differences. Results showed that children were more likely to identify in early stages of ethnic identity development (e.g., Identification, Affirmation, and Commitment) over later and more adult-like stages of Exploration and Achieved Identity, and these scores were impacted differently by nativity, school level, and ethnicity. Support for the connection between ethnic identity development and psychological well-being was not found. These results suggest that more research is needed to look at ethnic identity development as multidimensional, rather than the traditional unidimensional approach of an achieved status model. Further, more research is needed in exploring the connection between ethnic identity development and psychological well-being for this age group.


ethnic identity development; perceived discrimination; psychological well-being; middle childhood; racial and ethnic awareness