Collective Identity and Well-Being of Bulgarian Roma Adolescents and Their Mothers

Radosveta Dimitrova

In Europe and specifically in Bulgaria, Roma represent the largest and most disadvantaged ethnic minority historically exposed to severe discrimination, social exclusion and poverty. Therefore, identifying sources of psychological well-being for Roma is theoretically relevant and practically important.

We examined collective identity resources encompassing ethnic, familial, and religious identities among Roma adolescents and their mothers in Bulgaria. Ethnic identity refers to maintenance of positive attitudes and feelings that accompany a sense of group belonging (Erikson 1968; Ghavami et al. 2011; Phinney, 1989). Familial identity concerns the degree of identification with the familial group and commitment to the family and family relationships (Arends-Tóth and Van de Vijver 2008; Steidel and Contreras 2003). Religious identity reflects the salience of religious convictions for individual identity and self-concept (Furrow et al. 2004). Ethnic, religious and familial identities are important sources of strength for youth and their relatedness has been widely documented, specifically in indigenous minority groups (Kiang et al. 2008; Lopez et al. 2011).

We also considered ways in which collective identity is protective for well-being of Roma adolescents and their mothers. In so doing, we examined relations between adolescents and their mothers because maternal ethnic socialization is shaping youths’ identity processes in ethnic minority and Roma contexts. Hence, intergenerational transmission is a major source of culture maintenance among ethnic minority groups.

We found that 1) familial identity of both adolescents and mothers was stronger compared to their ethnic or religious identifications. Therefore, familial identity may protect individuals against the negative ethnic experiences that confront them in the Bulgarian society; 2) mothers’ ethnic, familial, and religious identities are positively associated with their children’s identifications and well-being; 3) there were significant relations of all collective identity components between mothers and children with the strongest relations among Roma and familial identities. This indicates that Roma mothers were particularly concerned with transmitting their commitment to the Roma culture as well as their family cohesion to their children.

In conclusion, we were able to show intergenerational continuities of collective identity among Roma mothers and their offspring and that strong ethnic, familial, and religious identities of the Roma are particularly important for their well-being.

Contact: radosveta.dimitrova@psychology.su.se

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