Ethnic and racial minorities’ feelings and beliefs about their ethnic and racial memberships have been a topic of interest in the social sciences for decades. A recent effort to unify this field of research–the Ethnic and Racial Identity in the 21st Century Study Group- has proposed the adoption of a meta-construct to refer to this process of self-understanding and self-categorization. The ethnic-racial identity (ERI) concept was proposed to represent the perception of belonging to a social group across ethnic and racial groups from different heritages, nationalities, cultural backgrounds, and socialization experiences
Positive attitudes towards ethnic-racial identity (ERI) is a key factor in Aboriginal Australian children’s development. 
The process of identification with one’s ethnic-racial group starts early in development. Children as young as five-years possess a sense of ERI and demonstrate that they explore, commit, and consolidate attitudes and preferences based on ethnic-racial membership. 

The study aims to offer evidence of construct and criterion validity, reliability, and measurement invariance of a brief measure of Aboriginal children’s ERI affirmation. 

Importance of study: 
During childhood ERI is associated with higher self-esteem, better adaptive behaviour and fewer externalizing and internalizing problems. 
Positive attitudes and a sense of commitment to ERI are shown to exert a protective role against the effects of racism on racial minority children and adolescents’ wellbeing. The attitude component of ERI has been referred to as ERI affirmation and can be observed from an early age. Attitudes towards ERI are central to wellbeing and mental health, as feelings towards social identities (e.g., gender, race-ethnicity, nationality) are decisive in perceptions of self-esteem and global self-worth. 

Study type:
Data was from 424 children aged 10–12 years (mean 10.5 years; SD 0.56) participating in the 8th wave of the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC). Information on ERI was obtained from 4 child-reported items. Sociodemographic characteristics and child social and emotional outcomes were caregiver-reported. A factorial structure was tested by Confirmatory Factor Analysis. The estimation method was weighted least squares with mean and variance adjusted test statistic (WLSMV). For reliability verification, the ordinal α and Ω hierarchical α were assessed. For construct validity, a generalized linear model with log-Poisson link estimated the association between ERI and children’s social and emotional outcomes. We hypothesized that children with positive ERI would have lower behavioural and emotional difficulties

The researchers found evidence of excellent fit for a unidimensional model of ERI affirmation after adjusting for correlated uniqueness between items 1 and 3 (χ2 (2) = 0.06, p = 0.80; RMSEA = 0.000 [90% CI 0.000–0.080], p = 0.088; CFI = 1.000). Internal consistency reliability was considered adequate (ordinal α = 0.83; Ω hierarchical α = 0.72). The unidimensional model was shown to be invariant among boys and girls (Δχ2 (4) = 6.20, p = 0.18; ΔCFI = 0.000). Higher ERI was associated with lower risk of problematic scores (>17) on the SDQ (Risk Ratioa = 0.91, 95% CI 0.64, 1.29).

The CFA analysis provided evidence of construct validity that the brief measure of ERI affirmation works as a unidimensional scale among Australian Aboriginal children aged 10–12 years.
The association between ERI affirmation and children’s emotional and behavioural difficulties reflect literature on the protective effect of positive attitudes towards ERI on the wellbeing of ethnic-racial minorities, including Indigenous youth from the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand. It also reflects Aboriginal Australians’ perspective on the importance of pride (positive attitudes) over ERI for positive Aboriginal children’s health and development. Such results contributes to the necessary evidence for research based on ERI data from LSIC, as it demonstrates that ERI affirmation is being assessed with a valid and reliable measure.

Key Findings:

  • The perception of one’s social environment as accepting of cultural diversity might be linked, for example, to reduced experiences of racial discrimination and more positive experiences of ERI expression. Promoting cultural safety features as a key factor in improving Aboriginal health, education, and community wellness.
  • Perceptions of cultural respect, peer acceptance of ERI, community involvement, and teacher’s cultural sensitivity–all contribute to a culturally safe environment—and are associated with less school absenteeism, higher classroom participation, and importance placed on school among Aboriginal students.
  • Investing on promotion of positive development from early age might assist in reducing health inequalities among Aboriginal children and youth and their non-Indigenous counterparts.
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