Coping with Identity Threats: Student Responses and Impact on Well-Being and Stress


Yishan Wei
Caroline George
Dalton Spurlin
Stacie Furst-Holloway


By Yishan Wei, Psychology; Caroline George, Psychology; Dalton Spurlin, Psychology

Advisor: Stacie Furst-Holloway

Abstract: Globalization and demographic shifts have created more diverse student populations on college campuses than ever before. While diversity offers innumerable benefits, it also can present challenges to students from underrepresented groups (Cuyjet et al., 2012). For instance, these students often report experiencing microaggressions and feelings of exclusion as a result of holding identities (e.g., race, gender, religion) that do not represent the majority student population. These experiences can be detrimental because when individuals view an aspect of their identity as negative, devalued, or inconsistent with the rest of "who they are," they experience greater stress and diminished well-being. Unfortunately, research to date that examines how individuals manage their identities is limited to studying one or two identities at a time, ignoring the fact that individuals hold multiple identities that collectively shape their experiences. Research also has not examined how students may draw upon other (valued) identities or engage in other coping responses to preserve their sense of self when one or more identities are threatened. The purpose of this study is to address these gaps. We surveyed more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students currently enrolled in universities around the globe. We asked students to describe their various identities, whether they experienced a threat to one (or more) of those identities over the last month, and how they responded to those threats. We will report these responses as well as the correlation between coping responses and perceptions of stress and well-being. Implications for research and practice will be discussed.


Classic Poster (1:00-3:00 PM)