Texas Tech University

Professor Uses Research to Dispute Ethnic Presumptions

Jenae Fleming

April 25, 2016


Yvonne Caldera has devoted her career to studying Mexican-American families.

Yvonne Caldera

Since beginning her career at Texas Tech University in 1994, Yvonne Caldera, a human development and family studies professor in the College of Human Sciences, has studied Mexican-American families. With an area of interest in infants' socio-emotional  development, Caldera used her expertise to dive deeper into the research connected to child development.

Caldera was perplexed by the data associated with child development studies. The research had primarily been done on European-American families and Caldera believed this was not an accurate depiction of child development all over the world.

“The field tended to believe that development was universal and the way a child in one country develops would be the same all over the world,” Caldera said. “That planted the seed in me to begin doing normative research with ethnic minority families.”

Caldera based her research on Mexican-American families in the Lubbock community, but beginning her research was not easy.

“It took quite a while to be able to get into the Mexican-American community to do research,” she said. “No one had ever done it here; there were a lot of suspicions.”

In order to figure out the context in which the families were living, Caldera would follow and document their routines.  She gathered information for her research for two years, following more than 160 Mexican-American parents and their infants.

Her studies showed the longer a Mexican-American has been in the U.S., the more likely they are to drop out of high school, experience teen pregnancy, become unemployed or engage in illegal activity.

“The longer the family has been in the United States, the less well they do, “Caldera said. “Immigrant children and families actually do better than their descendants do.”

While gathering her information, Caldera came to know other scholars in the same area of research who also studied Mexican-American families.

“That started me thinking: instead of having a book on Mexican-American families from a human development perspective, it might be more interesting from a multidisciplinary perspective,” Caldera said.

In 2010, the Society for Research in Child Development put out a request for conference proposals. The small conferences would focus on diversity and interdisciplinary perspectives. Caldera sent in a proposal request with the ultimate goal of a book in mind.

“The idea was that after the conference, I would take all of the presentations and turn them into chapters for a book,” Caldera said. “The people invited knew a book was going to come out of it.”

After holding the conference at Texas Tech in 2010, Caldera gathered all of the presentations and formed them into chapters for a book.

Mexican American Children and Families” is a comprehensive volume on Mexican-American children and families written by leading experts in fields of psychology, education, health and social policy, linguistics and sociology. The information in the book offers a glimpse into the diversity and complexity of issues examined by the researchers.

Since publishing her book in 2015, Caldera continues to conduct her research and follow Mexican-American families in the Lubbock community.