University of Georgia

New study looks at intersection of culture, biology in Latinx youth development

Photography By Lauren Corcino
UGA professor Cindy Suveg
Cynthia Suveg of the UGA Psychology Department was recently awarded a $3 million grant to study the intersection of culture and biology in Latinx youth development. (Photo by Lauren Corcino)

The Latinx community has been growing in Georgia, yet despite its increasing visibility, this community continues to be underrepresented in research around families and human development.

For Cynthia Suveg, this was a call to action. Suveg, professor of psychology in UGA’s Clinical Doctoral Program, has long been interested in bridging this research gap. Now, her team has been awarded a $3 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to better understand academic and behavioral outcomes in Latinx youth, and how Latinx parents promote positive outcomes in their children.

Suveg and her team in the Franklin College of Arts & Sciences plan to use this five-year grant to offer novel information about the ways that culture and biological processes intersect and influence the well-being of Latinx youth and families. The team hopes to gain insights using a culturally informed approach that acknowledges the ways culture affects all aspects of a child’s life, and how it infuses the parent-child relationship.

Suveg’s team includes UGA staff, graduate and undergraduate research assistants, as well as collaborators from across the country. They work closely together to study the Latinx community in Athens and surrounding communities. (Photo by Lauren Corcino)

“A culturally informed approach to the study of parent-child relationships in Latinx populations is critical for understanding how these relationships support healthy child development,” Suveg said. “Parenting is certainly influenced by culture. However, some parenting behaviors are universally positive, like sharing in positive emotion and providing support when needed.”

The team plans to use this approach to better understand what positive parenting looks like in Latinx parents and also to identify how stressors like discrimination, and cultural strengths such as strong ethnic identity, influence parents’ own well-being.

Studies will be conducted over the course of a five-year span, and will have a special focus on Latinx families from across Athens and surrounding communities. Information will be gathered starting when the families’ children are 3 to 4 years of age, and each subsequent year after that until the children are 5 to 6 years of age. Suveg identified the early childhood period as a critical time for understanding the ways that parenting can support healthy child development.

Suveg’s team features several other UGA faculty, including Margaret Caughy, Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Family Health Disparities, and Justin Lavner, associate professor of psychology. The team will also work with collaborators from George Washington University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of California, Irvine.

“We hope that these study findings will create novel avenues for promoting healthy development and overall well-being in Latinx children and their parents,” Suveg said.