The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Recent Trends in Adolescent Development Impacting Research With Mexican American Youth: How Can We Catch Up?

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon B, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
Cluster: Adolescent and Youth Development
Elizabeth K. Anthony, PhD, Arizona State University, Lela Rankin Williams, PhD, Arizona State University and Flavio Francisco Marsiglia, PhD, Arizona State University
How adolescents communicate with one another in romantic relationships and with family and community members is shaped in new ways by the mechanisms of modern communication.  Notably, adolescents are truly “alone” less frequently than in the past yet it is unclear whether they are more or less lonely as a result.  Time alone has been linked to youths’ psychological adjustment; however, with the advent of increasingly accessible technology that places youth in virtual connection with others (e.g., social networking sites, texting), the constructive role of being alone is compromised. Similarly, brain imaging technology indicates that the restructuring of the frontal lobe, responsible for self-control, judgment, and emotional regulation, continues into the teen years when young people are exposed in the social environment to risk situations for health and well-being.  Several other aspects of continued brain development, such as the corpus callosum (intelligence, consciousness and self-awareness) and the temporal lobes (emotional maturity) are only partially understood in relationship to working with adolescents in a research setting.

It is a challenge for researchers to keep pace with the rapid proliferation of technological influences and the subsequent impact on adolescent developmental processes and functioning.  In addition, among many Mexican American adolescents, issues of acculturation overlap with normative development.  Precisely how knowledge about trends in adolescent development can and should inform social work research with Mexican American adolescents is limited.  These emerging trends and findings have implications for adolescent relationships, attitudes, behavior, health, and general well-being.

The proposed roundtable brings together three scholars with expertise and interests in research with Mexican American adolescent populations and has two goals: 1) To discuss the recent trends that impact adolescent development and vulnerable adolescents in particular, and 2) To generate discussion, using examples from the presenters’ research, about how we might more effectively conduct research interventions with vulnerable adolescents in the 21stCentury.  Specifically, Presenter 1 will highlight how her experience with Mexican American middle adolescents in a research setting has been challenged by shifts in language usage and communication patterns among these teens. She describes how she adapted recruitment and data collection strategies according to youths’ cultural norms.  Presenter 2 will highlight the need to use different interviewing methods and measures in her research with Mexican American early adolescents living in public housing neighborhoods.  The commonly held beliefs and assumptions about how adolescents living in poverty versus more economically advantaged youth communicate will be explored and challenged.  Presenter 3 will address communication patterns and possible communication gaps between Mexican American adolescents and their parents due to differential exposure/use of technology and differential generational acculturation statuses.  Summary results will be presented from adolescents and parents participating in a youth and parent substance use prevention intervention.

The presenters’ goal is to stimulate conversation about the role these shifts have had in our ability to engage adolescents in research settings, and also how to use methodology that is more effectively aligned with the complex developmental needs of Mexican American adolescents, to ultimately promote well-being.

See more of: Roundtables