disclosure is critical to mitigating the negative effects of discrimination.

Adolescence is a critical period for identity development, and the experiences young people have during this time can significantly impact their well-being. A 2024 research paper by Dotterer, A. M., Ferguson, M., & Whiteman, S. D., titled “Adolescents’ experiences of discrimination, disclosure of discrimination, and well-being” delves into how discrimination affects adolescents. The research demonstrates the critical importance of being able to talk about – or disclose – experiences of discrimination in order to mitigate the negative effects such experiences have.

The Impact of Discrimination on Adolescents

Discrimination, whether based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or other stigmatized identities, can hinder healthy adolescent development. It can lead to feelings of isolation, stress, and a negative self-image, which in turn can affect mental health, academic performance, and social relationships. Adolescents who face discrimination may struggle with disclosing these experiences to others, which can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and distress.

The Importance of Disclosure

The act of disclosing experiences of discrimination is crucial for adolescents. It can serve as a coping mechanism, allowing them to process their emotions and seek support from trusted individuals. However, the decision to disclose is complex and can be influenced by various factors, including cultural norms and the anticipated reactions of others.

Identity Literacy as a Tool for Communication

In the context of these challenges, tools and programs that promote identity literacy, such as the OICD’s Identity Literacy Program, can be invaluable. Identity literacy refers to the set of abilities that enable individuals to navigate the development of their identities effectively. It involves integrating cultural knowledge, reflecting on personal and group identities, and adapting these identities to overcome challenges.

The OICD’s Identity Literacy Program offers comprehensive skills acquisition in identity education, helping educators and students explore self-concepts, build resilience, and foster a sense of belonging. It provides practical strategies for students to articulate their narratives of self, which is particularly beneficial when dealing with experiences of discrimination.

Identity Mapping as a Supportive Strategy

Identity Mapping, a central component within the Identity Literacy Program, is a powerful tool that can help students and educators understand and develop their own and other’s stories about their backgrounds and culture. This technique encourages reflexivity and the sharing of personal experiences, including those related to discrimination, in a supportive and inclusive environment.

Building Resilience

While tackling and preventing discrimination itself is of course a critical endeavour, evidence such as that brought forward by Dotterer, A. M., Ferguson, M., & Whiteman, S. D. (2004) demonstrates the importance of facilitating ways for adolescents to talk about identity and discrimination that they do face. Taking an identity literacy approach and employing strategies like Identity Mapping can empower students to express their experiences and educators to support them effectively.

By building identity education into schools and classrooms through formal practices and policies which take these factors into account, we can help adolescents navigate the complexities of their identities and the discrimination they may face, ultimately contributing to their ability to build resilience and well-being. 


Dotterer, A. M., Ferguson, M., & Whiteman, S. D. (2024). Adolescents’ experiences of discrimination, disclosure of discrimination, and well-being. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/02654075241233486