Longitudinal Relations Between Ethnic/Racial Identity Process and Content: Exploration, Commitment, and Salience Among Diverse Adolescents

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The present study bridges the process and content perspectives of ethnic/racial identity (ERI) by examining the longitudinal links between identity process (i.e., exploration, commitment) and a component of identity content, salience. Data were drawn from a 4-wave longitudinal study of 405 ethnically/racially diverse adolescents (63% female) from 9th to 10th grade. Results identified a transactional relation between identity process over the long-term and content in daily experiences: adolescents with stronger ERI commitment reported higher daily mean salience and less variability in salience 6 months later. At the same time, adolescents who reported more daily variability in salience engaged in more exploration 6 months later; this was particularly evident among youth who reported lower levels of mean salience. While centrality moderated some associations, most of the longitudinal associations did not vary by centrality. Building off long-standing theories of identity development that distinguish the independent effects of exploration and commitment, the data suggest that commitment predicts daily ethnic/racial salience experiences, while exploration is predicted by daily salience. Moreover, daily salience seems to serve as a developmental mechanism informing the construction of ERI over time. Implications for ERI development are discussed.

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