Sociocultural Influences on African-American Racial Identification


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Vetta L. Sanders Thompson, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Department of Psychology, 8001 Natural Bridge Road, St. Louis, MO 63121.


This paper examines the relative impact of two sources of sociocultural influence on racial identification. Using interviews with 225 African-American adults (Thompson Sanders, 1994), the relative influence of within-group vs. intergroup interaction variables was assessed. The data were collected using a structured interview protocol and a 30-item racial identification questionnaire. Information on the level and quality of intragroup interaction, experiences with race relations, political activism, age, gender, income, education, and orientation on four parameters of racial identification—psychological, physical, cultural, and sociopolitical—was collected. The results suggest that within-group contact variables have a strong association with the psychological and physical parameters of racial identification. The extent and quality of intergroup interaction with non-African Americans were associated with the sociopolitical parameter. Cultural racial identification was largely determined by demographic variables. These data suggest a model of racial identification based on a complex set of within-group, intergroup, and demographic variables.