Buros-Nebraska Series on Measurement and Testing


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Published in Multicultural Assessment in Counseling and Clinical Psychology, edited by Gargi Roysircar Sadowsky and James C. Impara (Lincoln, NE: Buros Institute of Mental Measurements, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 1996).


Copyright © 1996 by Buros Institute of Mental Measurements. Digital edition copyright © 2012 Buros Center for Testing.


In the 1970s theories of racial identity began to appear in the psychological literature. Several scholars working independently in various parts of the country introduced theories of Black racial identity development (see Helms, 1990). Since the 1970s, racial, ethnic, or minority identity theories have been introduced to include other visible racial! ethnic groups. The term "visible racial-ethnic" applies to Black, Asian, Indian, and Latino Americans; it identifies them as members of both racial and ethnic groups who are recognized by skin-color, physical features, and/or language. Ethnic or racial or cultural identity models have been proposed for Asians, Hispanics (Berry, 1980), and minorities in general (Atkinson, Morten, & Sue, 1989: Sue & Sue, 1990). In the mid 1980s Helms's White racial identity model was introduced (Helms, 1984).

Extensions and elaborations of racial identity theories have also appeared in the literature (e.g., Helms & Piper, 1994; Helms, 1994; Helms, this volume; Parham, 1989; Myers, Speight, Highlen, Cox, Reynolds, Adams, & Hanley, 1991; Sue & Sue, 1990). For instance, early models of racial identity were primarily stage models that described psychological responses to oppression. More recently, theories have evolved such that more emphasis is placed on racial identity as an aspect of an individual's psychological makeup in a race-based society (Carter, 1995; Helms, 1990; Helms & Piper, 1994). It is apparent from the growing body of theoretical activity that racial identity is becoming a major theoretical and empirical model in psychology.

Corresponding with the theoretical activity surrounding racial identity, there has been an increase in empirical investigations stimulated by the development of Black and White racial identity measures (Helms & Carter, 1990; Helms & Parham, in press). Studies have demonstrated the reliability and validity of the racial identity constructs and measures (e.g., Carter & Helms, 1992; Carter, 1990a, 1990b, 1990c; Carter, Gushue, & Weitzman, 1994: Helms & Carter, 1991; Helms & Carter, 1990; Helms & Parham, in press; & Pope-Davis & Ottavi, 1992; Tokar & Swanson, 1991; Taub & McEwen, 1992). Although there has been considerable empirical and theoretical work done with White and Black racial identity, somewhat less attention has been devoted to the underlying complexity of racial identity as reflected in the current racial identity instruments.