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The primary role of cultural identity clarity for self-esteem and psychological well-being

McGill University
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  • Psychology - Social
  • Communication
  • Psychology


There is a growing recognition among many who work with society's most disadvantaged cultural groups that cultural identity might be a primary issue related to their psychological adjustment. From his experience with Aboriginal peoples in Canada and inner city African American communities in the United States, Taylor (1997, 2002) theorizes that without a clear cultural identity, a person has no normative template with which to construct a clear personal identity, and by extension, to achieve positive self-esteem and well-being. The program of research I describe in the present thesis represents the first attempt to empirically investigate the extent to which the clarity of an individual's cultural identity is predictive of their experience of personal self-esteem and psychological well-being. In Manuscript 1, I present a series of studies that were conducted with undergraduate students, Anglophone Quebecers, Francophone Québécois, Chinese North Americans, and Aboriginal Canadians. In these five studies, the results demonstrate consistently positive associations among cultural identity clarity, personal identity clarity, and self-esteem and markers of subjective well-being. Beyond this, the results confirm that personal identity clarity mediates the relationship between cultural identity clarity and both self-esteem and well-being in all cultural groups. Having clear and confident beliefs about one's cultural group is associated with having clear and confident beliefs about one's personal self, which in turn predicts markers of psychological adjustment. In Manuscript 2, I explore the causal direction of the relationship between cultural identity clarity and self-esteem and well-being. A novel methodology involving computer-mediated communication is used to manipulate cultural identity clarity in a laboratory context. In two experiments, negotiating a computer-mediated social interaction with a clear cul

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