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South African-ness Among Adolescents: The Emergence of a Collective Identity Within the Birth to Twenty Cohort Study

NCJ Number
Journal of Early Adolescence Volume: 28 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2008 Pages: 51-69
Shane A. Norris; Robert W. Roeser; Linda M. Richter; Nina Lewin; Carren Ginsburg; Stella A. Fleetwood; Elizabeth Taole; Kees van der Wolf
Date Published
February 2008
19 pages
This study assessed the emergence of a South African identity among Black, Colored (mixed ancestral origin), White (predominantly English-speaking), and Indian adolescents participating in 2000-2001 study called “Birth to Twenty” in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The results found highly significant interracial differences with regard to the importance of national identity among South Africans 18 years old and older. The vast majority of youth in all race groups responded that they felt quite a bit or very South African, although the degree of identification varied across the race groups. At the same time, racial differences were documented in the reported certainty with which youth embraced the national collective identity. Black and Colored youth reported more certainty about their South African-ness than did White or Indian youth. Black South Africans had the strongest national identity while White South Africans had weakest, with Colored and Indian respondents scoring in the middle. The only dimension on which Black youth expressed reservations about South Africa was with respect to racial harmony and economic hardship, which many believed had not improved much in post-apartheid South Africa. Such differences would reflect the historical, cultural, and economic legacy associated with being a member of a dominant or non-dominant racial group in South Africa, as well as the perceived and real opportunities associated with racial group membership in a newly democratic, post-apartheid South Africa. Emotional aspects of national identity are linked to the historical opportunity for full citizenship and national enfranchisement that the end of apartheid heralded for Black individuals. As the political dominance was reversed in the country and White South Africans became the non-dominant group, this might have led to greater feelings of disenfranchisement among members of this group. Emotions linked to changes in dominance and non-dominance may have removed or erected barriers. In this context, barriers represent external influences associated with adolescent and young adults’ psychosocial identity exploration and commitment that potentially limits or bolsters developmental options, such as embracing a strong national identity. Tables, figures, note, references


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