Ethnic identity refers to one’s sense of belonging to an ethnocultural group. Research indicates that it is a crucial predictor of psychological adjustment, being associated with higher self-esteem, better coping abilities, and mastery, particularly among ethnic minorities. It becomes particularly relevant in adolescence as related to identity formation, which is a central developmental task in this period. Given its importance for identity formation and psychological well-being, its assessment has become an issue. Among the measures assessing ethnic identity, Phinney and Ong (2007) recently developed the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure – Revised (MEIM-R). Despite its extensive use, studies on its measurement characteristics in the European context are lacking. The current study addressed this gap by investigating the MEIM-R psychometric proprieties across multiple ethnocultural groups in Italy. Specifically, we evaluated its factor structure, internal consistency reliabilities of its scores, measurement and structural invariance, and levels of and group differences in ethnic identity.
Participants were 1,445 adolescents (M= 15.08 years; age range: 13-18; SD = 1.02; 47% female) of Italian (64%), East European (14%), and North African (22%) origin. All participants were administered the MEIM-R comprising two subscales, ethnic identity exploration and commitment. Each subscale includes three close-ended items placed on a 5-point scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) and multigroup CFAs were performed to assess both the factorial validity and the measurement/structural invariance of the MEIM-R. Internal consistency reliability of the MEIM-R scores were assessed using Cronbach’s alpha and McDonald’s omega coefficients.
Results showed that the MEIM-R has good internal consistency. Multigroup CFAs revealed configural and metric invariance, i.e., an equal, correlated two-factor structure (ethnic identity exploration and commitment) and equal factor loadings across ethnocultural groups. Scalar invariance, i.e., equal item intercepts, was found only for the commitment scores that showed no group differences in latent factor mean levels. Partial structural invariance was evidenced, with the factor covariances varying across groups.
To our knowledge, our study is the first to investigate the psychometric properties of the MEIM-R across ethnically diverse adolescent samples in a European country. Consistent with previous research, we found evidence for a correlated two-factor structure, good internal consistency reliabilities, and configural and metric invariance of the MEIM-R. Also, the results supported measurement invariance for the commitment subscale, but only partial measurement invariance for the exploration subscale. Furthermore, inter-factor correlation varies as a function of ethnocultural group. These latter findings may be related to majority-minority status, differences in exposure to identity issues, specific dynamics in the processes of ethnic identity formation, and specific social and cultural features (e.g., generational status and religion) of the studied groups. To sum up, our study suggests that the MEIM-R is a valuable tool to assess the correlates of ethnic identity across ethnoculturally diverse adolescent groups in Italy. However, only comparisons of MEIM-R commitment scores are meaningful at this stage, whereas exploration scores across various groups should be performed with caution. Thus, further research on this popular measure is necessary.
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