George P. Knight

Personal Spotlight:

We asked scholars to describe some of the following questions: What drew you to do work on Latino youth and families, or another topic that is important to you now? Who was an important mentor to you in this work, or was there a particularly influential study in the field or in a related field?

I grew up in communities and neighborhoods that were multi-ethnic and multi-racial in nature. I often attended schools in which “White European American” students were the minority. Hence, I had considerable experience interacting with others whose experiences and perspectives were different from mine, yet I did not grow up in a typical White middle class context either. While an undergraduate student I became interested in the study of cooperative and competitive behaviors. I pursued those interests as a graduate student under the mentorship of Spencer Kagan who was interested in the cooperative and competitive behaviors of Mexican American and European American children. I found this to be a unique opportunity to integrate my earlier experiences and my interests in studying prosocial development.

Research Spotlight:

We invited scholars to describe a recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it.

In a recent publication colleagues (Gustavo Carlo, Nicole E. Mahrer, and Alexandra N. Davis) and I were able to examine the role of familism values in the socialization of prosocial tendencies among Mexican American youth from 5th to 12th grades. Mothers and fathers familism values positively predicted their ethnic socialization practices. Mothers’ ethnic socialization positively predicted adolescents’ ethnic identity, which positively predicted adolescents’ familism. Familism values were associated with several types of prosocial tendencies. In contrast, Mexican American adolescents’ mainstream values (i.e., material success & personal achievement values) were negatively associated with altruistic helping and positively associated with public helping, but not their parents’ corresponding values. This is exciting because we were able to use longitudinal data to model the socialization mechanisms that foster the prosocial development of Mexican American youth. It is also exciting that we were able to hone in on the utility of familism values in the Mexican American family as the key feature that promotes prosocial tendencies.

This study represents an important contribution to the literature because there is a relative dearth of longitudinal and prospective studies examining socialization processes in Mexican American families. In addition, the key findings from our research suggest that the familism values associated with the Mexican American culture promote behaviors that are deemed positive from a societal perspective. This presents a starkly different, positive picture of Mexican Americans than the often-negative and exaggerated characterization of Mexican Americans that is presented by some entities in our current social and political environment.

Upcoming publications we should know about?

Members of the Latino Caucus may be interested in our APA book focused on the challenges of studying ethnic minority and economically disadvantaged populations (e.g., sampling, recruitment, and retention; ethical issues; measurement; translation; and putting research into action: Knight, Roosa, & Umaña-Taylor, 2009). We also have an upcoming publication that extends our ethnic socialization model longitudinally predicting select aspects of self-views (i.e., ethnic identity exploration and general self-efficacy) and that shows differential timing of maternal and paternal ethnic socialization (Knight, Carlo, Streit, & White, in press).

  • Knight, G. P., Carlo, G., Streit, C., & White, R. M. B. (in press). A model of maternal andpaternal ethnic socialization of Mexican American adolescents’ self-views. Child Development.
  • Knight, G. P., Roosa, M. W., & Umaña-Taylor, A. J. (2009). Studying ethnic minority and economically disadvantaged populations: Methodological challenges and best practices. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Reflections on Latino Caucus Experiences

Finally, we asked about experiences with the SRCD Latino Caucus: Why is the caucus important and/or your views on the role of the Latino Caucus vis-à-vis SRCD, research on child development, policy/practice.

I have not been a participant in the Latino Caucus until very recently. However, the Latino Caucus has been of great value to me during my career. The Latino Caucus efforts to promote the publication of research focused on Latinos and their families in the pages of Child Development and other top journals has been instrumental to the whole community of researchers interested in the role of culture on development. My research and thinking has been influenced greatly by the research literature promoted by the Latino Caucus.

george.knight@asu.edu           

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