From Identity to Secret: How Dual Identity Mounts Pressure on Individuals

Identity is a key component of self-concept. It affects how people see themselves and the groups to which they belong, as well as how they act in ways that affect other people.

Dual identity—belonging to two or more groups within the same social domain—is an increasingly important concept for ethnic minority group members (Verkuyten, Wiley, Deaux, & Fleischmann, 2019; Nguyen & Benet-Martinez, 2013). But research shows that having two identities is less helpful in hostile and exclusive environments and when they seem to be at odds with each other.

Feelings of Exclusion

Often, the experiences of others in a social context can have an impact on how people feel about themselves. This can lead to difficulties, but it can also lead to opportunities for growth and resilience.

One way of exploring this sensitivity is to focus on how individuals understand their own identity and how it impacts their well-being. This has important implications for how people behave in their relationships and how the social world reflects on their self-esteem and identity.

The current study examined 3 existing and frequently used conceptualizations and measurements of dual identity. Specifically, large-scale survey data were used to capture 6 recent immigrant groups (Afghanis, Chinese, Iranians, Iraqis, Polish, and Somalis; Study 1, N = 5,877) and immigrants from Turkey (Study 2, N = 427) in The Netherlands.

Feelings of Denial

Dual identity is a complex process. Having two distinct identities can be beneficial and offer opportunities for growth, resilience, and creativity. However, it can also lead to feelings of exclusion, betrayal, and conflict.

This article explores the relationship between dual identity and feelings of denial, a type of feeling that people experience when they don’t feel like they belong to a group or are being taken advantage of. It explores the possibility that individuals who have strong dual identities may be more susceptible to identity denial than those with weaker identities.

Dual identity is an important and growing area of psychological research, but there are many different ways to conceptualize it. For example, some theories suggest that the overlap between different identity groups (e.g., Amiot, de la Sablonniere, Terry, & Smith, 2007; Roccas & Brewer, 2002) can inhibit the process of integration. Others propose that feeling of threat can negatively affect the process of integration (e.g., Vargas & Stainback, 2016).

Feelings of Betrayal

Dual identifiers can be exposed to feelings of betrayal as a result of their membership in two groups. This feeling is a form of identity denial (Fleischmann & Verkuyten, 2016).

In this study, we examine the association between dual identity and experiences of dual identity denial from co-ethnics and the national group. These experiences of misgivings or manifested mistrust by either national or minority group members are a common occurrence for ethnic minority members who develop dual identities.

These findings suggest that dual identifiers can be influenced by their perceived dual identity denial in two ways: higher identity enactment may lead to stronger identity denial (H1a) or lower identity enactment may lead to weaker identity denial (H1b). Both theories are consistent with our results, which are in line with identity integration and threat literature and the enactment theory of enactment-based dual identity (Wiley & Deaux, 2010).

Feelings of Conflict

Dual identifiers experience their group memberships as harmonious versus conflicted, blended versus compartmentalized (BII; Benet-Martinez & Haritatos, 2005).

Ethnic minorities often feel that their national identity is being denied by the majority. This can lead them to psychologically distance themselves from society.

In Study 1, we examined direct dual identification, a more specific measure of dual identity than in previous research. The results showed that the participants’ direct dual identification was positively related to their ethnic identification but negatively related to their national identity.

In Study 2, we aimed to examine the association between dual identity, bicultural identity integration (BII, and social identity complexity (SIC. The results indicate that higher dual identification was a predictor of better bicultural identity integration (BII, and more SIC similarity and overlap.

Feelings of Inclusion

As people are social animals, they need to feel included in groups and able to interact with others. This includes not only having to accept people who are different from them but also being authentic in their group (Lay & Nguyen 1998; Zagefka & Brown 2005).

However, being excluded can happen when it is inevitable or when it is normative (e.g., avoiding people on public transport or not talking to them). As a result, being excluded can lead to feelings of isolation and exclusion from others.

While research suggests that dual identity has many benefits for members of minority groups, it is also associated with a range of difficulties and stressors for them (Baysu et al. 2011).

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