Online Program

Portrait Project: Identity Formation Among Young Men of Color in East Oakland

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 9:10 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

Stephanie Fong, BA, UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Jeffrey Schonberg, PhD, UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Ryan Saelee, BA, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Patricio Yrarrazaval, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Regina Jackson, East Oakland Youth Development Center, Oakland, CA
Jamal Rasheed, East Oakland Youth Development Center, Oakland, CA
Amani M. Nuru-Jeter, PhD, MPH, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Introduction: The key psychological task of adolescence is positive identity development. It is associated with positive mental health outcomes and decreased risky behaviors. For inner-city adolescents, positive identity development can be challenging, particularly in a society where their sense-of-self can conflict with society’s broader images and expectations of them. We investigated the process of identity formation among urban adolescents and how their identities influence their health behaviors, mental health, and overall wellbeing.

Methods: This multi-method study employed a qualitative, phenomenological approach. Participants (N=13), male minority youth ages 18-24 residing in East Oakland, CA, took part in “selfie-sessions” consisting of self-portraiture, in-depth interviews, and photo-elicitation as well as a focus group. Photos and transcripts were coded to identify emergent themes in the data.

Results: Prominent themes related to identity formation and the relation of identity to health and health behaviors include: (1) intersecting nature of identity and identity formation (i.e., race, place, class, gender), (2) attribution of discrimination and criminalization to the intersection of perceived identities, (3) discrimination influencing expression of identity, not identity itself, (4) use of coping mechanisms like code-switching to avoid stereotypes, and (5) salience of urban identity, which was related to self-perception, aspirations, and achievement.

Conclusions: Identity formation among urban youth of color is informed by internal processes, interpersonal interactions, and interactions with the inner-city environment. Understanding the process of identity formation may help inform more effective interventions and settings that promote positive identity formation, resiliency, and improved health outcomes.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe psychosocial aspects of identity formation among urban, minority youth Identify risk and resiliency factors related to positive identity development among urban, minority youth Discuss program and health policy changes that may promote positive identity development and alleviate urban health disparities

Keyword(s): Youth, Health Disparities/Inequities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As a medical and graduate student, I am conducting this study for my master’s thesis. It was inspired by the young people I have had the privilege of working with in the community.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.