UNL study on Nebraska Latino youth is first of its kind

A research team based at UNL wants to understand what factors predict Latino youth adjustment by launching a large-scale study of Latino youth in Nebraska.

The goal is to understand the experiences of Latino youth in the state, their strengths and challenges, and the family and community supports that help them succeed. Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in Nebraska and the United States.

"We know relatively little about Latino youth in the U.S., because few studies have focused on them," said lead investigator Lisa Crockett, professor of psychology at UNL. "What we do know about Latino youth is based on youth in the Southwest and Northeast, where most of the research has been conducted. As a result, we know very little about the lives of Latino teenagers in other parts of the country and almost nothing about Latino youth in Nebraska.

"We think the situation for Latino youth in the Midwest is unique. Ours is the first study to focus on these youth."

Crockett said the study, funded by the National Science Foundation, will involve structured interviews with 250 families, starting in Lincoln and then moving into other areas of the state. Schools and community agencies will be contacted to help identify and contact potential research subjects.

The project focuses on ecological and personal factors associated with Latino youth outcomes. Prior research with Latinos in other parts of the country suggests that family and community characteristics influence developmental outcomes in Latino youth. Those outcomes are also affected by personal characteristics and experiences such as stress and discrimination, a sense of closeness to one's ethnic group, and coping skills.

Although U.S. Latino youth may be affected by all of these factors, Latino youth in Nebraska might have different experiences, given the relatively small percentage of Latinos in the state, and the social and political environment in the Midwest, the researchers said.

"This study will allow us to understand the factors that predict well-being and adjustment among this fast-growing, understudied population," said Gustavo Carlo, a professor of diversity at the University of Missouri and a co-investigator on the project.

Another co-investigator is Maria de Guzman, associate professor of child, youth and family studies and an extension specialist at UNL. De Guzman works with UNL Cooperative Extension across the state to bring needed educational resources and youth programs to rural and urban communities in Nebraska.

"Once we know more about the challenges and resources that are important to Latino youth in Nebraska it should be possible to design programs to reduce the challenges and strengthen the resources that improve their chances of success," de Guzman said.

The researchers will be interviewing Latino 14- to 16-year-olds and their parents about their experiences and their reactions to them. The multidisciplinary, collaborative project is currently being conducted in Lincoln, but the team plans to include other Nebraska communities as well. Interviews will be conducted throughout this year. Next year, the team will analyze the data from all participating families, then disseminate the research findings locally and nationally.

The study will provide valuable information for national scholars and researchers, and Crockett said she expects the information will to be a valuable resource for policymakers, program developers, school administrators, mental health professionals, and community leaders throughout the state.

The team is actively recruiting qualified participants. To learn more about the project, visit the project website at psychology.unl.edu/lycp or contact the team by email at unl.lycp@gmail.com.

More details at: http://go.unl.edu/9tc