Renn’s Ecological Theory of Mixed Race Identity Development
Renn’s ecological theory of mixed race identity development highlights both ecological factors that influence multiracial identity development and the multiple labels individuals with mixed heritages use to identify themselves.
About the Author
Kristen Renn is a professor of Higher, Adult, & Lifelong Education (HALE) in the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University where she also serves as Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies for Student Success research.
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Printable Summary (PDF)
Stages, Levels, Phases, and Components of the Theory
Five fluid and nonexclusive identity patterns:
- Choosing one racial identity
- If one of the parents has a white identity, for example, the identity they chose generally represent their non-dominant ancestry
Multiple Monoracial Identities
- Students who represent their parental heritages
- Students are typically knowledgeable about all of their heritages
- Students exhibited a strong desire to label themselves rather than be labeled by others
- Students often see themselves as “existing outside of the monoracial paradigm”
- Most students used terms like multiracial, biracial, hapa, or mixed
- The ability to opt out of racial categorization completely or do not adhere to traditional United States categories
- Many students in this stage were raised outside of the US
- Students identity was based on the context that they were in
- Practice racial identification fluidity
Application of Theory to Practice
Annotations of Associated Literature
“Students who worked with advisors who encouraged reflection in goal setting and intentional planning and discussed with students their nonacademic life experiences were more likely to develop abilities and perspectives associated with self-authorship” (Evans et al., 190).
A presentation highlighting the theory:
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