Improving the understanding of interracial and multiracial relationships to benefit, bridge research gap

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Though interracial couples and multiracial families make up a growing proportion of households within the United States, there isn’t a comprehensive body of work that understands these families. That’s going to change with the help of a new project from James Brooks, Assistant Professor in Counseling and Educational Psychology.

His project, Racial Justice and Multiracial Families - The Implications of Critical Consciousness for Couples and Counselors, will explore the ways in which partners in interracial relationships understand race and its influence on the quality of their relationships. With funding from the IU Racial Justice Research Fund to cover recruitment and participant costs associated with the study design, Brooks hopes to close an important gap in research that focuses on these families as both intimate partner pairings and microcosms of intergroup dynamics.

Through this work, we can identify the strengths within these families and unearth implications for how counselors may help facilitate the development of qualities either in racial worldview or parenting approaches that will be of benefit.

James Brooks

“By understanding how romantic partners understand themselves as racial beings, the beliefs of partners about intergroup interactions and whether there is an understanding of racism as an institutionalized phenomenon, the project will assess how racial worldview within the relationship influences partners’ perceptions, commitment, and the family system as a whole,” Brooks said. “Currently, the field is unable to offer conclusions about the ways of addressing race that are beneficial for the family systems in regards to stability, satisfaction, and parenting choices.”

To complete the project, partners in Black-White interracial relationships with at least one biological and multi-racial child will be recruited. The participants will each complete a series of assessments regarding their racial worldview and experience as a multiracial family and their perceptions of relationship functioning, including a diary study as well as semi-structured individual and couple interviews. Brooks says while these families have a higher dissolution rate than their same race peers, there is a dearth of understanding about what works well within these couples that can be promoted. 

“An absence of this knowledge among counselors and romantic partners has implications for dependent children, as familial stability is a strong influence on child development and functioning,” he added. “Through this work, we can identify the strengths within these families and unearth implications for how counselors may help facilitate the development of qualities either in racial worldview or parenting approaches that will be of benefit.”

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