The complexity of Asian American identity: the intersection of multiple social identities
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The current study investigated the complexity of identity within the Asian American population in order to broaden the definition of Asian American identity beyond race and ethnicity. Using the Multidimensional Identity Model (Reynolds & Pope, 1991) as a conceptual framework, the study examined how individuals manage the multiple social identities of age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic class and the saliency of their various social identities. Participants were 287 Asian Americans, ranging in age from 18 to 63 (M = 28.48). Sixteen Asian ethnicities were represented in the sample, including Chinese, Korean, Indian, Filipino, and others. Participants completed a demographics form, the Rosenberg (1965) SelfEsteem Scale, the Satisfaction With Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985), and the Social Group Identification Scale (developed for this study). The Social Group Identification Scale asked respondents to rate social group categories on a Likert scale based on two instructional conditions – self-view of social identities and perceived societal view of one’s social identities. This scale also examined participants’ experience of conflict regarding their social identities as well as the difference between their perception of societal views and their self-view of social group identities. The results indicated that the most salient social identities for the Asian American participants were ethnicity, race, and gender. The least salient social identity was religion. Four cluster profiles created through a k-means cluster analysis varied in terms of the level of salience of various social identities but did not differ significantly in selfesteem or life satisfaction. Some participants experienced inner conflict regarding their social identities and used various strategies to manage them. Participants generally perceived that certain social identities (i.e., race, ethnicity, gender, age, and socioeconomic status) were assigned more strongly by society than by the participants themselves. The results provided empirical evidence supporting some of the Multidimensional Identity Model in that the salience of multiple social identities varied, and the intersection of multiple social identities was evident in individuals’ selfdefinition. The results suggest expansion of the Multidimensional Identity Model regarding conflict and the influence of the social environment on self-definition.