Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Karen L. Suyemoto

Second Advisor

Jean Rhodes

Third Advisor

C. Heike Schotten


To date, most bisexual and multiracial identity models in psychology capture a largely internal developmental process (Collins, 2000; Kich, 1992; Weinberg, Williams & Pryor, 1994). However, individuals learn to manage their socially stigmatized identities in social interactions (Goffman, 1963). While the demands to socially negotiate stigmatized identity affect all minority peoples, individuals with in-between ambiguous stigmatized identities, such as multiracial and bisexual people, must negotiate also being situated at the margins of their own reference groups (e.g. heterosexual and gay/lesbian). Using a comparative grounded theory approach, this study explored the question: How do experiences of socially negotiating an in-between ambiguous stigmatized identity influence one's identity development? And the sub-question: What are the similarities and differences in these processes for multiracial and bisexual people?

Ten self-identified biracial/multiracial Asian-White, heterosexual individuals and ten bisexual White individuals between the ages of 20 and 36 years participated in semi-structured interviews addressing the following areas of inquiry: (1) Contextualizing current identifications and establishing shared understandings, (2) Experiences of social negotiations, and (3) Effects of these experiences on identities. Issues regarding the rigor and credibility of the study (Morrow, 2005) were addressed through peer debriefing; inquiry auditing; and member check discussions. Analysis followed a constant comparative method (Creswell, 2007) and a multi-step process resulting in a theory describing three negotiation cycles and associated identity effects common to both kinds of identities (multiracial and bisexual), with additional identity specific (multiracial or bisexual) variations: the first cycle was Catalyzing Experiences, the second was Active Negotiations, and the third Emerging Sense of Agency through New Understandings, Perspectives, and Positive Experiences. Cycles were described by multiracial and bisexual participants as fluid, iterative, and interacting. The model developed in this study offers a way of understanding stigma management strategies and their relation to influencing identities and stigmatizing processes. This deeper understanding can help clinicians and community organizers create inclusive environments and develop interventions to assist multiracial and bisexual individuals develop skills to deal with social stigmatizing processes, resolve initial questions, and develop a greater sense of agency in identity choice and performance.