Phinney’s Model of Ethnic Identity Development

Brief Overview

Jean S. Phinney developed a three stage model of ethnic identity development (1992) based on research with minority adolescents combined with other ego identity and ethnic identity models, especially the works of Marcia and Erickson.

Printable Summary (PDF)

Previous cohorts of FSU students have developed these printable summaries and used them to prepare for test and papers.  We hope they’ll be of help to you too.


Stages, Levels, Phases, and Components of the Theory

Stages, Levels, Phases, and Components of the Theory:  

Phinney’s Model of Ethnic Identity Development uses a three stage model.

  • Stage 1: Unexamined Ethnic Identity
    • Individuals fall into two categories based upon the influence or knowledge of the existence of ethnicity
    • Diffusion – An individual has not encountered ethnicity as an issue or topic, ethnicity is not an issue of contention
    • Foreclosure – An individual as collected information about ethnicity from family and peers and succumbs to information without interacting with individuals of the ethnic group
  • Stage 2: Ethnic Identity Search/Moratorium
    • Individuals encounter cause him or her to look into their own ethnicity, as well as, become aware of ethnicity
    • Individuals continue to seek more information and a multitude of emotions during exploration
  • Stage 3: Ethnic Identity Achievement
    • Individuals are suggested to have a positive, bicultural identity
    • Individuals are informed about their own ethnicity but are aware and appreciative of all ethnicities
Application of Theory to Practice

This section is designed to provide student affairs professionals, staff, and faculty members with tips and tools to apply theory to practice.

Annotations of Associated Literature
Original Citation

Phinney, J.J. (1995). Ethnic identity and self-esteem: A review and integration. In A.M. Padilla (Ed.), Hispanic psychology: Critical issues in theory and research (pp. 57-70).  Thousand Oak, CA: Sage

Additional Resources

This page was written and created by Michelle Robinson. The webpage is maintained by Amanda Peerce and Jesse Ford.  For information on the page, please contact Amanda Peerce at or Jesse Ford at