Melinda Gonzales-Backen, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Florida State University

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?

My interest in studying ethnic-racial identity really emerged from my personal experiences. I grew up in New Mexico with a single mom who was white and Choctaw. My dad is Mexican American. Ethnicity was really salient to me because I wasn’t exposed to a lot of Mexican culture in my immediate family, but at school there were all of these ethnically-based assumptions. In college I had a great opportunity to do a summer experience with Andrew Fuligni and that was my first realization that this was an area of research and I’ve stuck with it ever since. So my advice to emerging scholars would be to find something you are truly passionate about and that holds personal significance.

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

I’m excited about a paper that is in press that I collaborated on with Alan Meca that is examining the affirmation subscale of the Ethnic Identity Scale. We realized that because all of the affirmation items are reverse coded that it wasn’t exactly measuring positive affect for one’s ethnic group, but rather high scores (when reverse coded) are indicating absence of overt negative feelings of one’s ethnic group. These are conceptually different in the same way that lack of depressive symptoms doesn’t quite imply overt happiness. I hope it will be a good contribution to conversations about how we conceptualize and measure ethnic-racial identity and what aspects are most important for Latinx youth well-being.

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

  • Meca, A., Gonzales-Backen, M., Rodil, J., Cowan, I., Sharma, S., Webb, T., & Hayes, T. (in press). The Ethnic Identity Scale: Affirmation, really? Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.
  • Carlos Chavez, F. L., Gonzales-Backen, M., & Grzywacz, J. G. (in press). The work-life experiences, stressors, and psychosocial adjustment of Latino adolescents in U.S. agriculture. Journal of Research on Adolescence.
  • Carlos Chavez, F. L., Gonzales-Backen, M., & Perez Rueda, A. M. (in press). International migration, work, and cultural values: A mixed-method exploration among Latino adolescents in U.S. agriculture. Family Relations.
  • Meca, A., Moreno, O., Cobb, C., Lorenzo-Blanco, E. I., Schwartz, S. J., Cano, M. A., Zamboanga, B. L., Gonzales-Backen, M., Szapocznik, J., Unger, J. B., Baezconde-Garbanati, L., & Soto, D. W. (2021). Directional effects in cultural identity: A family system approach for immigrant Latina/o families. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
  • Rayburn, A. D., Gonzales-Backen, M. A., & McWey, L.(2021). Living under the shadows: Experiences of Latino immigrant families at risk for deportation. Family Relations.

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.

The Latinx Caucus is important for the visibility of Latinx scholars and the amplification of our voices and research on Latinx children. As a first-generation Latina college student it was really important for me to see people like me doing research that resonated with me. Also, the Latinx college has provided excellent briefings on social justice issues. It’s motivating to see our work making this impact.

Website: Dr. Gonzales-Backen’s Faculty Page

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