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A short interview with Rebecca White, PhD, from ASU's Sanford School

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Rebecca White, PhD

January 29, 2018

Meet Rebecca White, PhD, an associate professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics.

Question: What research are you currently working on?

Answer: Broadly speaking, we are examining how the ethnic structuring of developmentally salient contexts — like neighborhood and/or school ethnic concentration, segregation, and diversity — impacts U.S. Mexican and Latinos adolescents’ development. With one grant, we are examining these processes in an established area of U.S. Mexican settlement, the Southwest. With another grant, we are exploring similar processes in an emerging Latinx immigrant destination, the Southeast. We’ve looked at normative developmental outcomes (e.g., ethnic identity development and dual cultural adaptation) and the development of psychological problems (e.g., anxiety, depressive symptoms). Most recently, we received a grant to examine how these contexts might influence character development (e.g., prosocial behaviors, spirituality).

Q: Which research project was the most challenging and why?

A: For me, one of my most challenging projects involves a manuscript that is being advanced by two Sanford School graduate students, Dalal Safa and Michelle Pasco, on the benefits of bicultural competencies across diverse contexts. This project involved examination of combined family-school-neighborhood characteristics and testing whether bicultural competence was more advantageous in certain contexts. We found, for example, some U.S. Mexican teenagers live in immigrant families and Mexican neighborhoods, and attend segregated schools. Others live in non-immigrant families, live in predominantly European American neighborhoods, and attend more diverse schools. There were additional combinations that transcended multiple aspects of family-school-neighborhood immigrant and ethnic structuring. The work highlights the diverse environments that U.S. Mexican adolescents are navigating on a daily basis and how these environments come to shape the impact that bicultural competencies have on mental health.

Q: Which research project was your favorite and why?

A: We have two papers from several years back in which we examined whether the negative impacts of early pubertal timing on mental health were amplified or ameliorated by neighborhood context. Both these papers really sparked my interest in how communities — in particular communities that experience marginalization in a racially and ethnically stratified U.S. society — support positive development and adaptation.