Gabriela Chavira, Ph.D., Professor, California State University, Northridge

Personal Spotlight
We asked scholars to describe some of the following questions: What drew you to do work on Latinx 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?

Since I decided to major in psychology, I was fascinated by psychological concepts, theories and processes. However, it wasn’t until my junior year in college when I enrolled in my first developmental psychology class that I found my niche. I was drawn by Erikson’s, Piaget’s, Vygotsky’s, and Bronfenbrenner’s developmental theories; Baumrind’s parenting typologies; and Ainsworth’s attachment styles. However, I noticed that my lived experiences were never reflected in those theories or in most concepts discussed in class. I realized that something was missing. As I read the literature, I noticed that people from low-income, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities were always looked at from a deficit lens – always lower, always lacking, always negative. I decided to study immigrant families from a different lens. A lens of strengths and never needing to compare Latinx experiences with others. I was heavily influenced by my mentor, Catherine Cooper at University of California, Santa Cruz. Her Bridging Multiple Worlds Theory helped me realize that there was a place for BIPOC youth and families and that their experiences were valuable and important.

In early reviews of my work, reviewers asked for a comparison group – meaning a White, middle-class equivalent. But the White, middle-class family is very different from low-income, immigrant Latinx families. There is no need to compare. For scholars at the beginning of their career, I say, follow your passion. Study what is important to you.

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

A former protégé, now an assistant professor, took the lead on a co-authored manuscript examining science identity in Latinx undergraduate students in a training program that uses a critical race theory (CRT) framework in its student training, compared to students who were not in the program. Our work identified different domains of what it means to be a scientist—science personal-identity and science social-identity—and suggests that each domain may develop at different points in their academic careers. We also found that Latinx students in the CRT-informed training program reported higher levels of these science identities, as well as a greater commitment to pursue a scientific career. This manuscript will be a great contribution to our understanding of science identity development, especially for minoritized students (e.g., Latinx) who are underserved and less likely to pursue a scientific career. This manuscript was recently accepted for publication in CBE-Life Sciences Education.

Any upcoming talks, presentations, or publications we should know about?

Yes, I will be participating in a Conversation Roundtable discussion at the 2021 SRCD Biennial meeting titled, “Centering Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppressive Scholarship: Integrating Intersectionality in Developmental Science.” This is a follow-up discussion to our SRCD webinar, “Becoming an Ally and Co-conspirator in Developmental Science.”

Reflections on Latinx Caucus Experiences
Finally, we asked about experiences with the SRCD Latinx Caucus: Why is the caucus important and/or your views on the role of the Latinx Caucus vis-à-vis SRCD, research on child development, policy/practice.

I have been a member of SRCD since 1996, and in the early years, I felt like my contributions as a developmental scientist were largely ignored, and as a scholar, I felt invisible. The Latinx Caucus provides visibility for the work that we do. It has also strengthened my sense of belonging and community. I know that there is a place and space within the SRCD organization for Latinx members and their scientific contributions.


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