Mayra Bámaca-Colbert

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?

As an immigrant from a working-class household with parents who only completed middle school, I had limited knowledge on graduate school. I only knew about masters level programs, as this was the highest level of education offered in my country (at the time I left at the age of 17). Thus, my career path as a faculty conducting research on Latino youth and families was, in some ways, serendipitous. As an undergraduate majoring in Psychology, I took a child development course with an incredibly challenging professor (Carrie Saetermoe) at Cal State University Northridge. Reading the assigned child development textbook in the late 1990s made me realized that I could not relate to some of the topics described in the textbook. For instance, I could not see my parents fit into any of the four parenting styles described by Diana Baumrind. While I was going through this realization, I also started to visit Dr. Saetermoe during office hours to discuss course material. It was during these meetings that she began to ask about my future academic/professional plans and she mentioned if I ever considered getting a Ph.D. Since I did not know what it was, she explained to me that if I went to get a Ph.D. I would be able to study and answer some of the questions I have about child development and parenting as it pertains to Latino families. Thus, a major drawing factor to the career path I chose was my commitment to adding knowledge on Latino families to future textbook and I owe Dr. Saetermoe for all the guidance she provided along the way. She was, in fact, the person who introduced me to the work of Drs. Suarez-Orozco, and reading their books in the early 2000s is what gave me the final push to pursue this career and focus on the work that I do.

Research Spotlight:

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

Fast forward 15 years later. Given the parenting style my parents exhibited as I was growing up, for a long time, I have been intrigued about whether some Latino parents exhibit a parenting style that is different from what has been the most common conceptualizations of parenting styles in the literature. Thus, I recently published a study* where colleagues and I examined latent profiles or types of parenting practices and family cohesion among Latino families. Adolescents reported on their mothers’ and fathers’ support, monitoring, punitiveness, and psychological control as well as overall family cohesion. The premise of the paper was to uncover profiles that combine parenting and family cohesion and examine how these profiles related to the psychological adjustment of Latino youth. We hypothesized that some family profiles would resemble established typologies like authoritative and authoritarian, but an alternative type comprised of demandingness strategies including moderate punitiveness and psychological control coupled with moderate levels of support and family cohesion would emerge. We also expected that adolescents in distinct profiles would report significant different levels of depressive symptoms and self-esteem.  Results revealed four profiles: Engage [moderate levels of support/warmth/family cohesion and moderate levels of punitiveness and psychological control]; Supportive [highest levels of warmth/support/family cohesion’ and lowest levels of punitiness/ and psychological control]; Intrusive [low levels of warmth/support/family cohesion and highest levels of punitiveness and psychological control] and, Disengaged [low levels on all variables].  Findings also revealed that adolescents in the Supportive profile reported the lowest depressive symptoms and highest self-esteem compared to other profiles. Importantly, adolescents in the Engaged profile (which combined warmth/support and cohesion with moderate levels of punitiveness and psychological control) reported fewer depressive symptoms than adolescents in the Intrusive family profile and also reported higher self-esteem compared to those in the Intrusive and Disengaged profiles. The findings that revealed the presence of an Engaged profile contributes to the knowledge on Latino families and puts forward the idea that future research should continue to explore whether unique parenting-family profiles exist among ethnic/racial minority families. Further, findings also showed that Latino adolescents within a parenting and family context perceived by above average levels of support, monitoring, and family cohesion alongside above average levels of controlling behavior report better adjustment than youth who experience a controlling family context that lacks a supportive environment. This underscores the importance of examining the combine presence of different domains of parenting behaviors alongside family-level variables and their contribution to the adjustment of children and youth.

*Bámaca-Colbert, M. Y., Gonzales-Backen, M., Henry, C. S., Kim, P. S. Y., Roblyer, M. Z., Plunkett, S. W., & Sands, T. (in press). Family profiles of cohesion and parenting practices and Latino youth adjustment. Family Process.

Are there any upcoming publications we should know about?

Our research team, comprised of two labs (Dr. Dawn Witherspoon’s and mine), has several presentations at the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) this upcoming April. I will also be the invited discussant for two symposia. In terms of publications, there are several papers at different stages (e.g. revise/resubmit, submitted, or soon to be submitted). One paper I am really excited about is a conceptual paper that discusses the importance of studying gender development within immigrant contexts. This paper emerged from an idea a graduate student in my ‘Immigrant youth and Families’ course developed. We have been working on this paper for a couple of years and the manuscript is currently under review.

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.

As an ethnic/racial minority scholar, having a place of belonging is critical and for me the SRCD Latino Caucus serves this important role. The Latino Caucus nurtures one’s academic intellect by providing an environment comprised of scholars whose research also focus on Latino issues and making resources available such as the Caucus’s webinars. Equally important for me is the ability of the Caucus to nurture a part of myself that I do not believe can be nurtured anywhere else in the organization. I love the larger SRCD organization for the impact of the work its members do—I have learned a lot from attending presentations and talks from scholars whose work may not attend to ethnic/racial, cultural, and contextual factors. However, the Caucus gives a sense of community that the larger organization cannot provide given its size. The Caucus provides an opportunity to meet and forge new relationships with established and emerging scholars whose work is on Latino children and youth, its leaders work tremendously hard to make our presence more visible in the larger organization, and it provides resources for its members. It is definitely a great community to belong to for scholars interested in Latino issues.

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