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 immigrated to the US during my adolescence. The transition was difficult, but it allowed me to appreciate and understand the ways that historical factors and socio-cultural context guide development. As an undergraduate, I felt that everything I read for my classes was distant from my experiences and those of people in my community. I became curious about how White middle-class parents interacted with their young children at the park or in other public spaces that I started to question the parenting practices in my Mexican-heritage community. But my undergraduate advisor, Dr. Carrie L. Saeermoe, introduce me to Barbara Rogoff’s work. When I started reading Dr. Rogoff’s research, there was a familiar feeling, a sense of belonging that I had never experienced in college. Not only that, but through reading Barbara’s work, I was able to see diverse populations from a strengths perspective and not in need of fixing. This experience and my two children motivated me to continue my education and to pursue a career where I could conduct research with families from diverse backgrounds to expand the multiple ways families successfully raise their children. I was very fortunate to have Barbara Rogoff as my advisor and colleague as we continue to work on numerous projects.
We invited scholars to describe a recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it.
My research agenda centers on sociocultural and cognitive development recently focused on how Maya children from Yucatan, Mexico, learn as they participate in family and community activities. We recently published a study demonstrating how Maya children learn the uses and modes of preparation of multiple medicinal plants (Jiménez-Balam, Alcalá, & Salgado, 2019). Children in this study, accompanied adults to the fields to collect medicinal plants, intently observed the preparation process and strategically asked clarifying questions to further their knowledge, without interfering in the process. Also, children developed a holistic understanding of health based on the equilibrium between contrasting natural elements, such as cold and hot. Their learning process was guided by their motivation to help others. Acquiring new knowledge is always tied to the expectation of utilizing it to provide help when needed. These findings provide evidence on the importance of contextualizing children’s learning process based on community values and developmental goals. Children’s daily experience offers many opportunities to acquire specialized knowledge, develop abstract and complex ideas about illness, health, and medicinal treatment, including cultural models of health.
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 been very important in my professional development. As a graduate student, I received a travel grant that facilitated my participation in SRCD’s conference. This support came at a crucial point in my graduate career and helped me stay active and engaged in the field. The Latino Caucus plays a crucial role in supporting Latinx graduate students and faculty and in advancing research related to Latinx community.