Rebecca White & student M. Dalal Safa

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?

White: First, I want to say that I really appreciate that the Latino Caucus reached out to me for a member spotlight. I am so fortunate to have had mentors who supported me and I’m excited to support others. For example, I had access to amazing mentors, like Mark Roosa, Nancy Gonzales, and George Knight, especially during my training. Later I benefited from a different set of mentors in my early career, including Adriana Umaña-Taylor and Cecilia Menjívar. I also have to acknowledge, however, that half of the people I think of as mentors may not even know that they are “my mentors.” I am constantly in search of mentorship, and I walk away from numerous professional interactions thankful for the mentoring I received. For example, I really think of the entire Latino Caucus Steering Committee as mentors, of sorts. Probably because I have benefited from so many mentors and mentoring moments, one of the primary aspects of my career development that feels very salient to me right now is mentoring students. For example, M. Dalal Safa, a PhD student in Family & Human Development at Arizona State University, is doing awesome research on biculturalism among U.S. Latino youth and families.

Safa:  I consider myself an emerging biculturalism and migration scholar. My research interests have been greatly shaped by my personal experiences, in fact, migration has always been a central part of my life. My father migrated from Palestine to Colombia when he was 18 years old and I decided to migrate from Colombia when I was 17 years old. Because I grew up in a bicultural, bilingual, biracial, and dual religion family, I questioned the meaning of cultural identity at a very young age and embarked on several journeys to explore its meaning. I have had the opportunity to live in Colombia, Palestine, Jordan, Belgium, and the U.S. Throughout my personal and professional experiences, I have grasped a deep understanding of the complexity involved in the phenomena of migration, dual-cultural adaptation, and biculturalism. I aim, with my research, to contribute to a better understanding of biculturalism development and to support positive development among youth exposed to two cultures.

Research Spotlight:

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

Safa & White: In a recent study, we found that bicultural competence predicted decreases in externalizing behaviors among Mexican American adolescents developing in certain contexts, but not others. Specifically, bicultural competence predicted lower externalizing problems when adolescent lived in immigrant families and predominantly Latino neighborhoods and attended predominantly Latino schools. In such settings, both cultural systems (mainstream and Mexican) are likely relevant, but adolescents might not need to switch as frequently between cultural frames of reference. This is an important finding that exemplifies the complex and ongoing interactions between individuals undergoing dual-cultural adaption and the contexts in which they are embedded. Furthermore, this finding highlights the importance of safe, supportive, inclusive, and culturally relevant contexts in which youth can practice and benefit from bicultural skills.

Are there any upcoming publications we should know about?

White: I’m a co-author on several of Dalal’s upcoming presentations. I’m really excited about all of them.

Safa: I will be presenting results from a systematic review of the biculturalism literature among U.S. Latinos at the Society for Research on Adolescence biennial meeting. This review highlights conceptual, developmental, and theoretical considerations in current research. Furthermore, in two upcoming paper symposiums I will be presenting results from research examining how the family context might promote or undermine Mexican American adolescents’ bicultural competence development. First, I am the chair on a paper symposium title “Development of Biculturalism in Context” to be conducted at the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology congress. This symposium brings together biculturalism research conducted in the U.S., Belgium, and Indonesia to advance understanding of contextual influences in biculturalism development.

Contact information:

White email:

White website:

Safa email:

Safa website:


« Back to Member Spotlights