Renn’s Ecological Theory of Mixed Race Identity Development

Brief Overview

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.

For more information on Dr. Renn, please visit the link below:

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

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

Multiracial Identity

  • Students often see themselves as “existing outside of the monoracial paradigm”
  • Most students used terms like multiracial, biracial, hapa, or mixed

Extraracial Identity

  • 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

Situational Identity

  • Students identity was based on the context that they were in
  • Practice racial identification fluidity
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

“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).

Additional Resources

A presentation highlighting the theory:


The webpage is maintained by Amanda Peerce and Jesse Ford.  For information on the page, please contact Amanda Peerce at or Jesse Ford at