Bicultural Families: Stages of Cultural Identity

Children of mixed matches face different issues in the development of their cultural identity in each stage of growing up, psychotherapist Joel Crohn notes in his 1995 book Mixed Matches. Parents can enhance their children’s identity development through honest, respectful discussions of their mixed heritage that address the concerns of the children at each stage, he says.

Early Childhood


ILY: Verdana">• Children between 2 and 4 do not categorize people by color or culture.


ILY: Verdana">• Beginning at about age 4, children begin to realize that people’s skin color will stay the same for their lifetimes. They also begin to grasp that the society uses color, culture and class as a way to identify and divide people.


ILY: Verdana">• At this age, kids strongly identify with their parents and tend to accept their parents’ definitions of religious beliefs and morality.


Preteen


• At this stage, most children are able to accept themselves as being biracial or bicultural.


• Children are aware that their ethnic identities influence, but do not solely determine, who their friends will be and how they define themselves.


ILY: Verdana">• Preteens have begun to develop the capacity to think abstractly and independently. Consequently, they are aware of any contradictions in their parents’ religious beliefs, but they still look to their parents for information and approval. They may experiment with religious identity, taking on the faith of one parent and then the other.


Adolescence


ILY: Verdana">• The peer group becomes very important. Bicultural youths often struggle for acceptance from a group that represents one-half of their cultural background. Or they may move back and forth between groups.


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