Neighborhoods are important aspects of the adolescent and family ecology. Cultural developmental perspectives posit that neighborhood environments contain both promoting and inhibiting characteristics for ethnic-racial minoritized populations (García Coll et al., 1996). Historically, neighborhood researchers have approached Latino neighborhoods from a deficit perspective. Thus, there is limited research about how Latino neighborhoods support Latino youth development and family processes. In my dissertation, I examine both the promoting and inhibiting aspects of Latino identified neighborhoods for adolescent development.
In study 1, I prospectively examined a model in which Mexican-origin parents’ perceptions of social and cultural resources in neighborhoods may support parents to engage in higher levels of cultural socialization and, in turn, promote adolescents’ ethnic-racial identity (ERI). Findings suggest neighborhood social and cultural cohesion in late childhood promoted middle adolescents’ ERI affirmation via intermediate increases in maternal cultural socialization. Similar patterns were observed for ERI resolution, but only for adolescents whose mothers were born in the United States. Findings have critical implications for how neighborhoods support parents’ cultural socialization practices and adolescents’ ERI.
In study 2, I used a convergent mixed methods research design to compare and contrast researchers’ neighborhood assessments collected using systematic social observations (e.g., physical disorder, sociocultural symbols) with adolescents’ qualitative neighborhood assessments collected by semi-structured interviews with Mexican-origin adolescents. Using quantitative methods, I found that researchers observed varying degrees of physical disorder, physical decay, street safety, and sociocultural symbols across adolescents’ neighborhood environments. Using qualitative methods, I found that adolescents observed these same neighborhood features about half the time, but also that they often layered additional meaning on top of distinct neighborhood features. Using mixed methods I found that, in the context of high spatial concordance, there was a high degree of overlap between researchers and adolescents in terms of agreement on the presence of physical disorder, physical decay, street safety, and sociocultural symbols. Lastly, adolescents often expanded upon these neighborhood environmental features, especially with references to positive and negative affect and resources. Overall, findings from study 2 underscore the importance using mixed methods to address the shared and unique aspects of researchers’ objectivity and adolescents’ phenomenology.