An Ecological Examination of Ego and Ethnic Identity Formation Within Second Generation Korean-Americans
Investigation of first and second generation Korean-American ego and ethnic identity formation was explored through semi-structured, in-depth interviews. Seventeen self-identified Korean-American young adults, aged twenty-one to twenty-nine, were asked to describe their identity development within Bronfenbrenner's five ecological realms. Grounded theory methodology was used to link Erikson's theory of identity formation (1968) with Bronfenbrenner's Theory of Ecology (1979). Unlike Erikson's prescribed identity crisis for adolescents, Korean-Americans were found to delay their identity exploration until college or young adulthood when they were able to gain geographical and emotional distance from their parents. This was found to be primarily due to Korean culture's emphasis on three main areas--importance of family, respect for elders, and strive for excellence--which served to reinforce collective identity with one's family along with strong parental authority, which inhibited deviation from parental expectations. Subsequently, Korean-American ego identity was found to be significantly influenced by parental adherence to Korean culture. Furthermore, Korean-Americans during adolescence were found to marginalization their Korean culture, due to experiences of discrimination and prejudice from American peers. Depending on the degree of experienced prejudice and discrimination from American peers along with degree of socialization and exposure to other Koreans, Korean-Americans' ethnic identity either proceeded in stages or became fluid, where their ethnic identity changed depending on the environment .