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Ethnic Variation/Ethnicity

Origins And Importance Of Ethnicity, African Families, Asian Families, Latino Families, Middle Eastern Families

Ethnicity has been defined as a family's common ancestry through which identity develops as a result of evolved shared values and customs (McGoldrick, Giordano, and Pearce 1996). The definitions of ethnicity, or the more functional term, ethnic group, consist of individuals and families who are members of international, national, religious, cultural, and racial groups that do not belong to the dominant group in a society. They can be differentiated from both the dominant group and other ethnic groups by some combination of their values, expectations, geographic location, language, attitudes, customs, lifestyles, rituals, and celebrations. In addition, ethnicity and sense of peoplehood are recognized by themselves and by others.

A number of other terms, such as minority, people of color, and racial groups are related to the term ethnic group. Some minorities are differentiated on the basis of power and resources, so that to be a member of a minority group is to share a status relationship dissimilar from the dominant group. To be a member of a racial group is to be defined by both physical and cultural characteristics. The same individuals can be a member of a minority group, a racial group, and an ethnic group (Mindel, Habenstein, and Wright 1988).

According to Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan (1975), ethnicity (or, more commonly, ethnic groups) was relatively new to research and the media until the 1960s. The terms ethnicity, ethnic groups, ethnic consciousness, and ethnic identity now appear regularly in both social science writings and in the mass media. In fact, it is rare that one might witness an event or situation in which the consequences are not in some way related to the ethnic identity of the individuals involved. According to the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (Thernstrom, Orlov, and Handlin 1980), there are criteria for inclusion in an ethnic group. The following are the criteria most often associated with ethnic group membership: (1) economics or class; (2) geographic origin; (3) political position; (4) migratory statuses; (5) race; (6) language and dialect; (7) religious faiths or faiths; (8) ties that transcend kinship, neighborhood, and community boundaries; (9) shared traditions, values, and symbols; and (10) level of discrimination.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural Aspects