Ethnic pride boosts happiness, study finds
Oct. 31, 2006

Curtis L. Taylor

Chinese and Mexican students who had positive feelings about their ethnic backgrounds reported being happier on a daily basis than those who had a more negative attitude about their ethnic identities, according to a new study.

Lead author Lisa Kiang of Wake Forest University said many studies have documented in some ethnic groups the negative effects an impoverished background has on self-esteem. In this study, Kiang said a majority of the
415 ninth-graders reported being happier on a daily basis because of ethnic pride.

"Some studies imply you are doomed if you are a person of color, but here we are looking at different strengths, where having a sense of ethnic identity contributed to the adolescents' resiliency against the types of stressors that all adolescents experience," said Kiang, an assistant professor of psychology. In the study based in Los Angeles, participants first completed a brief questionnaire regarding their feelings about their ethnic identity.
Next, the students filled out a three-page checklist at the end of each day for two weeks indicating the types of stresses they experienced that day.

For example, the students would mark whether they had a lot of schoolwork to complete or a lot of demands made by their families. The students also were asked to rate their daily feelings, including happiness and nervousness, on a scale from zero to four, Kiang said.

Dr. Michael Schessel, assistant professor of pediatrics for Stony Brook University Medical Center, said the study is an important one, but "researchers did not control enough for biases such as parental educational levels and socioeconomic status." However, he said they tried to by looking at three schools with mixed socioeconomic backgrounds.

"Adolescence is particularly a stressful stage of life with many . . .
issues of identity," Schessel said.

In adults, high stress levels are known to contribute to heart disease and other health risk factors.

The study, published in the current issue of the Child Development Journal, is the first phase of a study led by Andrew J. Fuligni of the University of California at Los Angeles.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service