Identity Project

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Identity Project

During adolescence, the question “Who Am I?” is constantly on teens’ minds as they develop their identities and figure out who they are and who they will become. Teens sometimes think about their ethnic heritage or culture when answering this question; more specifically, this is referred to as teens’ ethnic identity.  Understanding how their ethnic identity fits into their larger sense of self is important for many teens.  In fact, ethnic identity has implications for many different parts of adolescents’ lives, including psychological well-being, academic performance, and peer relationships.  Specifically, research studies have shown that when adolescents have thought about their ethnic identity and have tried to understand more about their background, they fare better in each of these domains.

The development of ethnic identity is a complex process, as teens explore what their ethnicity means to them, try to understand the role of ethnicity in their everyday lives, and decide how they feel about that aspect of themselves.  The Identity Project is designed to provide adolescents of any ethnic background with tools and strategies that help them explore and understand their constantly evolving identity in relation to their ethnicity.  The major goal of this project is to design a theoretically grounded and ecologically valid curriculum for an intervention that promotes the identity formation process during adolescence.

Funding Source: T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

Executive Director:

Postdoctoral Research Fellow:

  • Sara Douglass, Ph.D.


  • Flavio Marsiglia
    Distinguished Foundation Professor of Cultural Diversity and Health, Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center
  • Kimberly Updegraff
    Cowden Distinguished Professor, The Sanford School

Graduate Research Assistants:


Douglass, S., & Umaña-Taylor, A. J. (in press). Examining discrimination, ethnic-racial identity status, and youth public regard among Black, Latino, and White adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence.

How positively adolescents believe others feel about their ethnic-racial group (i.e., public regard) is an important part of their ethnic-racial identity (ERI), which is likely informed by contextual and individual factors. Using cluster analyses to generate ERI statuses among Black, Latino, and White adolescents (N = 1,378), we found that associations between peer versus adult discrimination and public regard varied across ERI status and ethnic-racial group. However, among all adolescents, an achieved ERI (i.e., having explored ethnicity-race and having a clear sense about its personal meaning) buffered the negative association between adult discrimination and public regard, but not between peer discrimination and public regard. Implications for understanding the interplay between contextual and individual factors for public regard are discussed.

Douglass, S. & Umaña-Taylor, A. J. (2015). A brief form of the Ethnic Identity Scale: Development and empirical validation. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 15(1), 48-65. doi:10.1080/15283488.2014.989442

Theory and research have long indicated that ethnic-racial identity is a complex and multifaceted construct. However, there is a paucity of brief, easily administered measures that adequately capture this multidimensionality. Two studies were conducted to develop an abbreviated version of the Ethnic Identity Scale (EIS) and to explore its psychometric properties in the United States. In Study 1, the use of item-reduction techniques with a sample of adolescent Latinos (n = 323) resulted in a 9-item brief version of the EIS (EIS-B), including subscales of Exploration, Resolution, and Affirmation; furthermore, longitudinal analyses provided initial support for the construct validity of the subscales. In Study 2, the factor structure of the EIS-B was examined among an ethnically diverse sample of college students (n = 9,492), and findings provided support for strong measurement invariance across ethnic groups for the EIS-B. Together, findings from both studies provided preliminary evidence for the validity and reliability of the EIS-B as a brief measure of the multidimensional construct of ethnic-racial identity, and indicated that the EIS-B assessed ethnic-racial identity in a comparable manner to the original version of the scale.

Umaña-Taylor, A. J., & Douglass, S. (in press). Developing an ethnic identity intervention from a developmental perspective: Process, content, and implementation. In Cabrera, N. J. & Leyendecker, B. (Eds.) Handbook of Positive Development of Minority Children. Springer.

The current chapter describes the process of developing an intervention grounded in developmental theory and focused on increasing adolescents' ethnic-racial identity exploration and resolution. We begin by describing the impetus for the focus on ethnic-racial identity as a target for intervention, which includes a brief overview of existing basic research identifying consistent associations between developmental features of ethnic-racial identity and adolescents' positive adjustment. We then review existing intervention efforts focused on identity, generally, and ethnic or cultural identity, specifically. In the second part of the chapter we present our approach for working with a community partner toward the development of the Identity Project intervention, discuss the mixed method (i.e., quantitative and qualitative) approach we used to develop the curriculum, and describe the curriculum. The chapter ends with a discussion of considerations for implementation, including the universal nature of the program and ideas regarding transportability.


Fuentes, S., Umaña-Taylor, A.J., Douglass, S., & Updegraff, K. (2016, March). Is an American Identity Synonymous with an Ethnic-Racial Identity for Some Youth, but not Others? Poster presented at the Society for Research on Adolescence Biennial Meeting, Baltimore, MD.

Douglass, S. & Umaña-Taylor, A. J. (2014, June). A brief form of the Ethnic Identity Scale: Development and empirical validation. Paper presented at the APA Division 45: Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race 2014 Annual Meeting, Eugene, OR.