Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Barry Markman


Existing theories and research have indicated that ethnic identity is crucial for ethnic minority young adults because ethnicity is an important component of their personal identity that is likely to influence various aspects of their development. Given the centrality of this construct, the overarching aim of the present study was to examine ethnic identity and psychological well-being among members of an ethnic group that have long been ignored in the psychological literature: Arab Americans.

Specifically, the goals of the study were threefold. The first goal was to examine the association between multiple contextual factors (such as students' perceptions of their parents' style of parenting, family ethnic socialization, perceived discrimination, and generational status) and ethnic identity or its' two components (ethnic identity exploration and ethnic identity affirmation). The second goal was to explore the potential role of ethnic identity or its' components to promote psychological adjustment and well-being: self-esteem and depressive symptoms are indices of psychological functioning that were examined in the study. The final goal of the study was to examine whether ethnic identity, or its' components, can serve as a protective factor, mitigating the negative effects of discrimination on psychological well-being.

Participants (N= 323) were recruited from Wayne State University (WSU) campus and were assessed using a package of 7 batteries: Demographic Questionnaire, Familial Ethnic Socialization Measure (FESM), Parental Authority Questionnaire (PAQ), Perceived Ethnic Discrimination Questionnaire (PEDQ), Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM), Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES), and Center for Epidemiologic Studies - Depression Scale (CES-D Scale).

Pearson correlation analyses revealed that higher family ethnic socialization, authoritative parenting and lower generational status were all significantly associated with higher ethnic identity, ethnic identity, exploration and ethnic identity affirmation. Further mediation analyses revealed that the relation between generational status and ethnic identity was fully mediated by family ethnic socialization. With respect to gender differences, results revealed that the strength of the association between ethnic socialization and ethnic identity did not differ for males and females.

As for the relation between ethnic identity (or its components), perceived discrimination, and psychological well-being, results from the correlational analyses revealed that higher ethnic identity, ethnic identity exploration, and ethnic identity affirmation were associated with higher self-esteem and lower depressive symptoms whereas perceived discrimination was associated with lower self-esteem and higher depressive symptoms. Finally, with respect to the potential protective roles of ethnic identity, ethnic identity exploration, and ethnic identity affirmation, hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that ethnic identity (and its components) moderated the relationship between perceived discrimination and psychological well-being. Specifically, perceived ethnic discrimination was negatively associated with self-esteem among participants with high ethnic identity; however, this relationship was even stronger among participants with low ethnic identity. Similarly, perceived ethnic discrimination was positively associated with depressive symptoms among participants with high ethnic identity; however, this relationship was even stronger among participants with low ethnic identity.

Findings suggest that ethnic discrimination takes a toll on Arab American young adults, but, for this population, having a salient ethnic identity may have profound mental health benefits as ethnic identity may serve as valuable resource to help them deal with negative discriminatory experiences.