Among the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population are people who simultaneously incorporate multiple groups into their self-concept, such as bicultural and biracial people. Yet, many of the unique social experiences and the corresponding health effects of such populations remain underexplored. My research addresses this critical gap by focusing on how belonging to multiple groups, across various backgrounds, may shift people’s own identity experiences and how society perceives them, with implications for well-being. My research is supported by the National Science Foundation, American Psychological Foundation, American Psychological Association, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Philanthropic Educational Organization, and Russell Sage Foundation.
IDentity Experiences of People with multiple Identities
Bicultural and biracial participants who reported that others frequently challenged their American or White identities felt less free to choose their own identity, felt a lowered sense of belonging, and perceived their identities as less compatible, which was ultimately associated with reporting more depressive symptoms and stress (Albuja, Sanchez, & Gaither, 2019).
These processes also operate among dual-minority biracial participants who cannot claim a high-status, White identity (e.g., Black/Asian biracial people; Albuja, Sanchez, & Gaither, 2020).
Bicultural people demonstrated physiological stress responses to identity denial by returning more slowly to baseline levels of a stress hormone compared to a control condition (Albuja, Gaither, Sanchez, Straka, & Cipollina, 2019).
Identity questioning is harmful (e.g., associated with greater stress and depressive symptoms) when bicultural people interpret it as discrimination. This interpretation was more likely when people heard greater discussion of anti-immigration policies and believed there is wider support for anti-immigration policies (Albuja, Sanchez, & Gaither, 2019).
My primary line of research investigates the relationship between social identity processes and physical and mental health for bicultural and biracial people. Because social norms suggest people should hold only one cultural or racial identity, bicultural and biracial people often experience identity denial (e.g., being told to identify differently than you do) and identity questioning (e.g., being asked about your background), when their membership in important social groups is challenged by others.
Perceptions of others' Multiple Identities
My second line of research examines perceptions of others’ multiple ingroups. For example, knowing how biracial people’s fluid identification is perceived, or how transgender people are categorized, can inform how intergroup relations may evolve in an increasingly diverse society.
Asian/White or Black/White biracial students who racially presented themselves as monoracial due to the demands of the situation (compared to biracial presentation) were evaluated more negatively because they were perceived as less trustworthy and because they activated explicit negative stereotypes about biracial individuals (Albuja, Sanchez, & Gaither, 2018).
Participants demonstrated less gender-typical representations of a target labeled as transgender compared to a target labeled as cisgender (i.e., transmen were represented as less masculine and transwomen were represented as less feminine). These representations predicted lower acceptance of feminine behavior and less endorsement that the target should be categorized as female (Howansky, Albuja, & Cole, in press).