Diversity Archive

Latin@ Study Holdings

by | May 22, 2000

Social science research on Latin@s has often perpetuated and emphasized negative stereotypes, and myths. At The Henry A. Murray Research Center, a national repository of behavioral and social science data focusing on the multi-disciplinary study of lives through time, we have been able to identify positive, insightful, and culturally sensitive research studies, for permanent preservation.

Once archived, we make available each of these studies to researchers, both students and scholars, to use these data for new research whether to analyze topics not yet considered, or to replicate a study, or to follow-up participants to assess life changes over time. The range of uses of archival data is broad, from a course project to intensive scholarly analyses. All of these new research efforts are referred to as secondary analyses. Through promoting secondary analysis of such archival data, we enable researchers to ask new questions of already existing data and thus ensure the highest productivity of those data sets.

In 1995, the Murray Center received more than a million dollars in funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health to acquire data sets with racially and ethnically diverse samples, and to create a Diversity Archive–a clearinghouse for research on diverse populations.

A significant portion of the studies acquired through the Diversity Archive initiative have focused on the lives of Latin@s. Acquisitions included studies of couples and families such as Scott Coltrane’s and Elsa Valdez’ Work-Family Role Allocation In Dual-Earner Chicano Families, 1987-1992; Lea Ybarra’s Chicano Families & Women’s Roles, 1977; and Lloyd H. Rogler’s Intergenerational Study of Puerto Rican Families in New York City, 1976-1978, and the Better Homes Fund’s Worcester Family Research Project, 1992-1995 which examined a multi-ethnic sample of homeless Latin@ and White families. For example, Lea Ybarra’s 1977 study of Chicano Families & Women’s Roles places marital relationships within the economic, social, educational, and cultural context of mid-1970s California to explore the changing family structures resulting from Chicanas’ entering the paid labor force. Through this effort, Dr. Ybarra was able to create a constructive framework of the Chican@ family, drawing on positive aspects of Chican@ culture.

Another group of studies provided accounts of life experiences, and political involvement such as the study by Leo Grebler, Joan W. Moore, and Ralph C. Guzman, entitled Mexican-American Study Project, 1965-1966, and Carol Hardy-Fanta’s more recent Gender & Latina Politics in Boston, 1988-1991. Carol Hardy-Fanta’s important local study of Gender & Latina Politics in Boston illustrates the active role of Latinas in politics which exposes and contrasts traditional political science assumptions. The study also provides a rare first person account of Latin@ political interests, drawing on viewpoints from Latin@ immigrants from Central and South America, as well as Puerto Rican-Americans. Using in-depth qualitative interviews, the study examined differing ways that “common folk”, and professionals, women and men, define “What is political?” Research which chronicles educational and developmental progress have been the most intricately designed studies among our Latin@ Diversity archive holdings.

A third set of studies investigated educational and developmental experiences and academic achievement such as the work of Marcelo and Carola Suárez-Orozco’s Immigration, Family Life & Achievement Motivation Among Latino Adolescents, 1991-1992; and Wayne Holtzman’s School of the Future Project, 1990-1994. The latter study represented a large-scale, five-year demonstration project involving more than 7,000 elementary and middle school youth living in four cities in Texas. Most (two-thirds of the pupils) were Chican@ or Central American. Drawing from methods established through community psychology, the project sought to demonstrate the beneficial impact of “full-service” schools which incorporate health and social services, and provide such specialized child and family services as family crisis intervention to social skills training with a focus on the local community, and the involvement of parents and teachers in decision-making.

Recurrent across most of the studies mentioned are the themes of the personal and collective impact of immigration, and the structuring of gender roles predominantly in the lives of Chicano and Puerto Rican Americans from childhood through mid-life. Our holdings also span nearly four decades from the 1960s to present, and they also draw on a variety of scientific perspectives including women’s studies, psychological anthropology, sociology, education, psychology, human development, and political science. Users of these very important and precious materials are welcome at the center.

Taken together, these studies reflect not only a diversity of Latin@ ethnic perspectives, but also a wide range of viewpoints within each ethnic group. The collection of studies on Latin@-American lives represents socioeconomic, geographic, and ethnic diversity, including participants from homeless, low-income, working, middle, and upper class backgrounds; suburban and urban residents of Eastern, Mid-western, and Western states; and of U.S.-born, Central and South American, and Caribbean birth origin. Each study uniquely embodies an emphasis on personal strengths and resilience under challenging circumstances, and on aspects of competence and human growth. Research on families illustrates these important qualities.

Spring 2000

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