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The Centrality of Gender and Ethnic Identities across Individuals and Contexts


Christia Spears Brown, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, 1285 Franz Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA. Email:


This study examined (1) whether 5- to 12-year-old children consider gender and ethnicity to be central and important components of their identity, (2) whether the relative centrality of these identity components differs across children, and (3) how the centrality of children's gender and ethnic identities is affected by a dynamic situational context of inclusion and exclusion. Results indicate that although gender and ethnicity are not the most important aspects of elementary schoolchildren's self-concepts, both gender and ethnic identities differ among European-American and ethnic minority group children, and those differences are greater in older children. In addition, children's gender identity is context-dependent, but the exact nature of this flexibility is contingent on the existing centrality of their identity.