Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Katharine Hill


Social Work



Racial and ethnic differences that exist within our society are discovered by children at a very young age (Derman-Sparks, Higa, Sparks, 1980). The development of ethnic identity is an important part of overall identity development and is an indispensable human need that fosters a sense of belonging and a sense of historical continuity (Smith, 1991). Therefore, this paper examined if there was a correlation between a positive ethnic identity and self-worth in African American adolescents. In order to examine this correlation, the researcher surveyed 30 African American adolescents between the ages of 18 to 25-years-old and asked them about their ethnic identity development as well as how they valued themselves based on their self-esteem. The findings demonstrate that there were no statistically significant correlations between an African American adolescents’ ethnic identity and his/her self worth, nor were there statistical differences based on gender. However, the researcher did find a statistical significant between participants’ age and their ethnic identity. In addition, the researcher found a statistically significant relationship between age and the About Me survey that was issued, which focused on the combination of ethnic identity and self-esteem. There are several implications for social work practice, policy and research that resulted from this study. Identity formation and is a pivoting task of adolescence and if individuals are not able to arrive at a stable sense of self then interpersonal areas and psychological effects may affect the individual (Phinney, 1992). As a whole, society needs to take a stance against racism and exclusion and encourage differing ethnic groups to take pride in where they come from rather than promoting a melting pot ideology. Future research needs to focus on adolescents are acquiring a sense of ethnic identity in the 21st century and how this is affects their self-esteem.

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