Get access

Ethnic and Racial Identity During Adolescence and Into Young Adulthood: An Integrated Conceptualization


  • This article was prepared as part of the Ethnic and Racial Identity in the 21st Century working group. Group members not listed on the author byline are: Sabine French, George P. Knight, Carol Markstrom, and Robert M. Sellers. The authors gratefully acknowledge the funding for this working group provided by the Society for Research in Child Development, Society for Research on Adolescence, APA Division 45, the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race in America and the Center for the Study of Human Development at Brown University, and the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University.


Although ethnic and racial identity (ERI) are central to the normative development of youth of color, there have been few efforts to bring scholars together to discuss the theoretical complexities of these constructs and provide a synthesis of existing work. The Ethnic and Racial Identity in the 21st Century Study Group was assembled for this purpose. This article provides an overview of the interface of ERI with developmental and contextual issues across development, with an emphasis on adolescence and young adulthood. It proposes a metaconstruct to capture experiences that reflect both individuals’ ethnic background and their racialized experiences in a specific sociohistorical context. Finally, it presents milestones in the development of ERI across developmental periods.