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 interest in studying Latino/a youth and families stemmed from my early observations of the existing work on these youth and families. At that time, I realized that much of our understanding of this ethnic/racial minority group was skewed towards pathology and maladjustment. At the same time, I had developed a strong interest in understanding prosocial and moral development. As I began to publish more research in this field, I began to appreciate how prosocial tendencies (including sympathy, moral reasoning, prosocial behaviors) are associated with healthy social and behavioral functioning. In other words, we began to accumulate evidence that these prosocial tendencies are themselves desirable markers of health and well being. Thus, by studying prosocial and moral development in Latino/a youth and families, we could begin to understand how Latino/a youth develop into relatively healthy and well functioning individuals. This approach, hopefully, will translate into the development of interventions and policies aimed at fostering health and well-being in Latino/a populations.
We invited scholars to describe a recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it.
I was excited by the findings of a recently published study on Latino/a youth and families. In this study (Carlo, White, Streit, Knight, & Zeiders, 2018), we reported longitudinal evidence that: a) Latino fathers’ parenting predicts their youth subsequent prosocial behaviors and b) that prosocial behaviors in earlier adolescence predicts better academic performance and functioning in later adolescence. The first finding is important because it yields evidence that is somewhat contrary to the earlier research that mothers’ but not fathers’ parenting matters in predicting youth prosocial behaviors. We now have a small but growing number of studies that provide this evidence. This suggests that previous studies that showed nonsignificant effects of fathers on their children’s prosocial behaviors might have been due to the sparse research on fathers and prosocial development in adolescents and/or the lack of research on fathers and prosocial behaviors in Latino/as. The second major finding from this recently published study is perhaps even more significant to me. As far as I know, this is the strongest evidence that earlier prosocial behaviors predict better academic outcomes in U.S. Latino/a youth. Such findings provoke the possibility that fostering prosocial behaviors in earlier life could enhance academic outcomes in Latino/a youth and therefore, reduce academic disparities in this population.
Any upcoming talks, presentations, or publications we should know about?
I just completed co-editing (with Deborah Laible and Laura Padilla-Walker) a book due out soon that focuses on parenting and moral development. The Handbook of Parenting and Moral Development (Oxford University Press) is a comprehensive synthesis of our scholarly understanding of parents’ influence on children’s moral traits and behaviors. The chapters cut across infancy, childhood, and adolescence from a wide range of theoretical ad methodological perspectives. Perhaps most importantly, there are several chapters that focus on parenting in several countries and distinct ethnic groups (including Latino/as) around the world and in the U.S. It was quite exciting to read the many recent advances in this important area of study.
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.
For many years, the Latino Caucus has been instrumental in providing a nurturing and supportive organic environment for anyone working with Latino/a populations. I have seen firsthand how the Caucus has grown and progressed in the last several years under strong leadership and member involvement. The Caucus also plays a critical role in advocacy on behalf of our SRCD members to directly address the many sociopolitical challenges and issues facing Latino/as. Now that the Caucus had joined forces with other Caucus groups and that the Caucuses are all officially more integrated into the SRCD organization, the Latino/a Caucus will play a greater and more influential role in SRCD’s future.