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Dev Psychol. 2012 Jan;48(1):56-64. doi: 10.1037/a0025678. Epub 2011 Oct 3.

Change in ethnic identity across the college transition.

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Department of Psychology, University of California-Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563, USA.


This article examined changes in ethnic identity as a function of college type and residential status and whether differences due to college type could be explained by involvement in extracurricular activities and college ethnic composition. Although no changes in ethnic labeling or belonging were found, there was a normative decrease in ethnic search, independent of residential status. Moreover, the decline in ethnic search was significantly greater at 2- than 4-year colleges, and this difference was mediated by higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities at 4-year colleges. Ethnic identity did not vary by college ethnic composition. There were no ethnic or generation differences in ethnic identity change; however, women were more likely to include an American term in their ethnic label than were men, over time. Averaging across time, students at 4-year colleges also had a greater preference for the American term in their ethnic labels. Findings illuminate the importance of context in shaping ethnic identity.

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