Juan José Giraldo-Huertas, Doctoral Candidate (University of Reading, UK) and Full-time Faculty & Department Chair of Psicología del Desarrollo y la Educación (Universidad de la Sabana, Colombia)

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?

During my time as a student of Psychology at Universidad del Valle in Colombia, I became a research assistant in a large study of how children in Cali (Colombia) from vulnerable settings understand natural numbers. Professor Mariela Orozco-Hormaza, Ph.D. was my mentor. She is a well-known researcher in child development in the country and her knowledge guided my interest in exploring how to tackle barriers and transform developmental trajectories of children at risk.

After finishing my Master studies, my family and I moved to Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, where I began working as a Lecturer at Universidad de la Sabana (ULS) in Chía, Cundinamarca. Since then, I lead and collaborate on multidisciplinary studies that aim to understand different domains of children’s socio-cognitive development. I truly believe in the potential of interdisciplinary alliances to have an integral role and to offer a wide range of explanations of the multiple individual, community and structural factors that intervene in children’s development.

As a result, in 2011, together with a research group of nutritionists and cognitive anthropologists, we explored instrumental helping and vegetable consumption decisions in children, using experimental and observation methods as well. Our results led us to discover that even in an LMIC country widely known for its agricultural production, optimal food security coverage for its population of vulnerable children might fail.

Moreover, even though the country has social policies aimed to protect and support early childhood, there were no official reports on the impact of those policies and the overall status of children from 0 to 5 years old. Consequently, between 2012 and 2015, I was a Principal Investigator in a large study (1,177 families/children under six years old) called “Inicio Parejo de la Vida” (‘Equity Star of Life’, henceforth IPV). IPV was carried out with a cross-sectional design and a representative population sample from two regions of Colombia (Cundinamarca and Boyacá). We did developmental screenings about families/caregivers and children. Results indicated a significant relationship between at-home-care variables and a developmental socio-cognitive index. These results were important to understand the role of daily practices at home and the need for tailored interventions that recognize the importance of parental interactions for children’s development.

After the IPV research, I was awarded a British Council travel grant and it was then when I met my Doctoral Supervisor and mentor, Graham Schafer, PhD. He was keen on supporting the design of a report instrument of children’s skills administered by parents. This was a key moment for my career as I was able to link the need for tailored interventions in a tangible tool accessible for parents. This was the start of an idea for my PhD project.

In 2016, I started my Doctoral studies at the University of Reading (UK) designing a booklet created to obtain information of daily activities for interaction between parents or caregivers with children: The Compilation of Activities to Report and Enhance development – C.A.R.E. (henceforth, CARE). Dr. Schafer supervises my research with Professor Peter Cooper, PhD. Professor Cooper invited me to translate and compare the effects of a developmental screening booklet administered by parents with a protocol in Spanish for dialogical book-sharing training (DBS). I am currently concluding my Thesis, which reports positive results of an intervention with CARE and DBS in marginalized communities in Colombia.

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

Given the current global health emergency due to COVID-19, we were concerned about the impact of the pandemic and its associated socio-economic consequences on children’s wellbeing and development, particularly those living in marginalized contexts. Therefore, we designed and released an online survey to explore the daily interactions between caregivers and their children from zero to six-years-old. Ninety-eight families participated. 84.7% were families living in Colombia.

The survey asked about scenarios to preserve the potential of socio-cognitive development of children. Due to the isolation and the closure of day-care and pre-school institutions, it would be expected that only activities carried out in green areas or parks would be affected. However, reading and physical activities at home were equally affected than those carried outdoors. Likewise, it is concerning that activities that are expected to happen more regularly during lockdown, as conversations and daily interactions, are also affected. Particularly, talking and sharing about possible selves and family history was not part of the daily family conversations.

To sum up, we found that as a consequence of the isolation and daily-care closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, activities essential for child development (i.e., reading with children, sports and physical and play activities at home) might be diminished for toddlers (https://monitoreoencasa.weebly.com/resultados.html). Likewise, lower socioeconomic and educational levels of the primary caregiver, along with adverse changes in their current employment situation, were related to lower levels of daily interactions.

Given the diversity of characteristics that we found in the mentioned COVID-19-survey, we are keeping the survey open to continue monitoring and analyzing everyday practices related to care and its impact on children’s development (URL: https://monitoreoencasa.weebly.com).

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

I have recently published in Spanish the concluded results of the IPV project: Giraldo-Huertas, J. (2020). Estructura evolutiva del cuidado, desarrollo socio-cognitivo y prácticas cotidianas (Evolutionary structure of care, socio-cognitive development and daily practices). Revista Iberoamericana De Psicología, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.33881/2027-1786.rip.13107

Regarding conferences, I am planning to attend the 2020 SRCD Special Topic Workshop: Connecting Worlds: Studying Child Development in Low Resource Contexts, with two presentations:

  1. Submission ID: 34637, Format: Individual Paper Presentation, Panel: Connecting Worlds Submission, Title: Validation of a parent-report tool with interactions for developmental screening in low-resource settings.
  2. Submission ID: 34668, Format: Individual Paper Presentation, Panel: Connecting Worlds Submission, Title: Effects of a developmental screening tool administered by parents in children at risk in low-resource settings.

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 am honored to share a place with all my colleagues and inspiring researchers like Barbara Rogoff in the Latinx Caucus. The caucus is an opportunity to highlight our work and research projects and to foster future alliances to improve the livelihoods of children in vulnerable conditions.

Also, the Latinx Caucus has an essential role within the SRCD, showing the cultural, historical and ideological diversity in our Latinx community. We need to expand our comprehension of Latin America’s diversity, as well as its historical social inequalities. This opens up possibilities to strengthen inter-institutional and multidisciplinary collaborations to inform evidence-based research in vulnerable communities.

Email: juangh@unisabana.edu.co

Website: https://monitoreoencasa.weebly.com

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