Chicano Identification and its Correlates

Jesus Sanchez (Ph.D., 1992)

Thesis directed by Professor Peter G. Ossorio

The scant psychological research available on Chicano identification, which has concerned itself primarily with the mental health implications of ethnic identification, has yielded contradictory results. Such mixed results seem to point to a broad conceptual problem: what actually constitutes Chicano identification. Although Chicano identification has been assessed through the use of variables such as language, place of birth, generational level, endorsement of cultural values, and most commonly, engagement in behavioral cultural practices, inferring identification from such variables adds little clarity to what Chicano identification actually is.

In this study, a formulation of Chicano identification is offered, making use of Descriptive Psychology concepts, in which Chicano identification is seen as the congruence between a person's Status of 'Chicano' and his or her Status of 'oneself.' In addition to the conceptual elaboration of Chicano identification, its real-world manifestations are examined as a way of validating the resulting conceptual formulation.

Chicano college students (n = 44) provided responses to a 72-item paper-and-pencil instrument developed for this study. Chicano identification was assessed, and strongly identified Chicanos were compared with 'nominal' Chicanos. Results provide strong support for the formulation of Chicano identification offered. Differences in the real-world manifestations of Chicano identification were found, with strongly identified Chicanos being more likely to display Chicano cultural characteristics. They were also more likely to perceive ethnic discrimination and ethnic conflict, and to view their personal experiences from the reference point of the Chicano group, such that they felt a greater sense of satisfaction about Chicano accomplishments, as well as greater disappointment about unfortunate things happening to fellow Chicanos. Appreciable differences were also found between the two groups in their perceptions of Chicano intragroup relations, with strongly identified Chicanos being more willing to cooperate with fellow Chicanos and to assist other Chicanos in need.