Marisa Franco

.Participant: PROMISE AGEP Research Symposium

Marisa Franco
: Psychology
Institution: University of Maryland College Park (UMCP)



Forbidden Identities: Racial Identity Invalidation for Black/White Biracial People

This qualitative study examined instances of racial identity invalidation among 49 Black/White Biracial individuals. Transcriptions of participants discussing their most stressful experience of invalidation were coded for themes using content analysis. Themes that emerged provided a rich description of Biracial participants’ perceptions of why invalidation occurs and why perpetrators invalidated the individual. Also addressed are Biracial people’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions in response to the invalidation, and the effect of the invalidating experience on racial identity. Implications for research, counseling and preventive interventions are provided.


Marisa Franco is a 4th year PhD student in counseling psychology. She has a masters of science in psychology from The University of Maryland. She graduated, cum laude, with her bachelors degree in applied psychology from New York University. Her research interest focuses on experiences of racial identity invalidation and their psychological impact for Black/White mixed race individuals. She is a flagship fellow and a McNair fellow at The University of Maryland. She has received numerous grants for her research, including The Michael Sullivan Diversity Award and The Association of Black Psychologists Graduate Research Award. After receiving the International Graduate Research Award, she spent her past summer doing community-based research in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She aspires to become a professor in psychology



I am building a program of research that focuses on understanding and mitigating the impacts of racial identity invalidation on identity development and overall health. I have taken a two-pronged approach to understanding and combating invalidation by focusing both on how Multiracial individuals internalize invalidation, and why perpetrators commit invalidating acts. As part of my masters thesis, I analyzed transcripts of Biracial people discussing invalidating experiences. For my dissertation, I am finding a way to effectively measure racial identity invalidation.


  1. O’Brien, K. M., Franco, M. G., & Dunn, M. G. (2014). Women of color in the workplace: Supports, barriers and interventions. In M.L. Miville and A.D. Ferguson (Eds.), Handbook of race-ethnicity and gender in psychology (pp. 247-270). New York: Springer.
  2. Franco, M. G., Katz, R., Brent, T., & Utley, J. (2014, June). Social invalidation in the lives of Black/White Multiracial individuals. Paper presented at Howard University Black Graduate Conference in Psychology, Washington DC, DC.
  3. Franco, M. G., O’Brien, K. M., & Kim, Y. (2014, May). Taking racism to heart: The effects of race-related stressors on cardiovascular reactivity for Black/White Biracial people. Poster presented at Association for Psychological Science Convention, San Francisco, CA.
  4. Franco, M. G., Smith-Bynum, M., & Anyiwo, N. (2013, July). Racial identity and endorsement of President Barack Obama. Poster presented at The Association of Black Psychologists Conference, New Orleans, LA.
  5. Franco, M. G. (2012, November). Race-related stress for Multiracial individuals. In M. G. Franco (Chair), Science, stress, and mixed race. Symposium conducted at Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference, Chicago, IL.

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