Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Sharon G. Horne

Second Advisor

Takuya Minami

Third Advisor

Kiran S. K. Arora


It has been widely established that the construct of ethnic identity has different meanings for different individuals and is central to psychological functioning. The majority of research on ethnic identity and its development focuses primarily on monoethnic individuals or makes no distinctions in findings for multiethnic versus monoethnic individuals. As such, while there is an apparent increase in multiethnic individuals in the United States, understandings about how individuals who identify as multiethnic develop their ethnic identities are limited and necessary. Researcher definitions of what it means to be multiethnic vary and are often used to identify or recruit participants who may have differing understandings of their ethnicities. In attempting to understand how multiethnic individuals develop their own ethnic identity, it is important to explore how they themselves understand and define ethnicity.

This study aimed to explore the lived experiences, relationships and meaning-making of ethnic identity and its development among those who self-identify as multiethnic. Data was collected by interviewing 11 individuals who self-identified as multiethnic and who were at least 18 years old. The interviews were transcribed and data was analyzed using a phenomenological qualitative approach. Variable understandings of race, ethnicity, and multiethnicity were revealed. The experience of multiethnicity was interrelated with family and friend relationships and with geographical and cultural contexts. Participants expressed feeling misunderstood and as if they do not completely belong, including with groups that they identify with. Participants also expressed feelings of pride in being multiethnic and were able to name multiple positive aspects of being multiethnic. It is hoped that the findings will help promote self-understanding and self-acceptance among multiethnic individuals and will broaden understandings about what it means to be multiethnic. Implications and recommendations for research and practice were discussed.


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