Ego strength, White racial identity, racial diversity attitudes, and cultural empathy in undergraduate students

Timothy S Paquette, Purdue University


The purpose of the present study was to use a structural equation modeling (SEM) approach to examine the relationships among the ego strength of fidelity, White racial identity development (WRID; Helms, 1990, 1995, 1996), racial diversity attitudes, and cultural empathy in traditional age White undergraduate students (ages 18–24). The theoretical relationship between ego strength and WRID has not been empirically investigated despite the assertion that racial identity develops through the progression of six ego statuses (Helms, 1995). The ego strength of fidelity was examined in the current study given that fidelity is purported to develop during late adolescence and young adulthood as individuals attempt to resolve the psychosocial conflict of identity vs. identity confusion (Erikson, 1964; Markstrom & Kalmanir, 2001). Based on recent efforts to increase multicultural and diversity awareness in the predominantly White higher education system in the United States (Ervin, 2001), the relationships among fidelity, WRID, racial diversity attitudes and cultural empathy were investigated in the hypothesized structural model. Due to the personal and emotional nature of these variables, social desirability was also included as a variable in the model. A sample of 260 White undergraduate students voluntarily completed measures that assessed 16 indicator variables. Intercorrelation comparisons provided support for the convergent and discriminant validity of the Disintegration, Reintegration, Pseudo-Independence, and Autonomy subscales of the White Racial Identity Attitude Scale (WRIAS, Helms & Carter, 1990). SEM results revealed a lack of fit of the data to the hypothesized model. However, an examination of the statistically significant path coefficients revealed general support for the hypothesized directional relationships among the latent variables. A modified structural model provided a better statistical fit although the recommended modification was not justified based on theory and previous research. Limitations of the present study and recommendations for future research are discussed.




Kwan, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Bilingual education|Multicultural education

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