We asked scholars to describe some of the following questions: What drew you to do work on Latino youth and families? Who was an important mentor to you in this work? What tips do you have for someone starting out?
My research interest on social-moral development and violence in Central America has been formed by my family ties to Central and South America, my experiences growing up in neighborhoods impacted by violence, and the projects I have participated in the region over the years. Just as importantly, I was motivated to pursue research and collaboration in the region because I realized that, although developmental studies on aggression have largely overlooked Central America, such studies are primary sources informing policy and prevention efforts within region.
We invited scholars to describe a recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it.
I am currently concluding my dissertation study which examines 10-11 and 14-15-year-old social-moral judgments, reasoning, and attributions of violence associated with gangs, known as maras. I conducted work with youth in both San Pedro Sula, Honduras and Managua, Nicaragua so as to examine differences as a function of age, sex, and exposure to gang violence—maras are almost non-existent in Nicaragua. I am excited to be doing this work because it is extremely relevant to not only child development research, but it also has implications for violence prevention efforts and policy. For instance, within particular prevention frameworks in Honduras, certain assumptions are made that exposure to violence directly leads children to accept it, thus minimizing how children and adolescents consider multiple concerns in situations of violence. Preliminary findings in my study suggest that children in Honduras don’t accept gang-violence wholesale because they are exposed to it, but rather coordinate different concerns that emerge with each situation of harm. Relatedly, the dynamics of the actual and symbolic manifestations of the gang-related violence that youth attend to in Honduras raise key questions for research on child development in that such conflict is not confined to in-group/out-group relations, but rather involves individuals from the community, the police, news media, and others who share and have conflicting goals when addressing the violence.
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.
The Latino Caucus has an important role within the SRCD. It’s worth reiterating that the Latinx community is very diverse culturally, in historical contexts and in points of view. The strength in this is to draw from research by or within the Latinx community so as to enrich our understanding of normative child development. Relatedly, I feel much attention is needed in finding ways to make equitable the sharing of knowledge with colleagues in Latin America, where, at the moment, the flow of knowledge is in one direction: from north to south. The friendships I have made at institutions in Central America have taught me the lesson of such disparities that need to be addressed, and how much richer our own work could be by becoming familiar with research in the region. I see the Latino Caucus as one possible space from which to open up such exchanges.