Friday, October 7, 2011 - 9:06am
posted by
Ariel Rodríguez, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor
ASU School of Community
Resources & Development

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

The U.S. has seen a dramatic increase in the number of Latino youth, which will continue to play a key role in the services provided during out-of-school time. Out-of-school time is defined as before and after school, as well as weekends and summer. These programs are often developed to meet the needs of the youth they serve, and demographic shifts throughout the US suggest most programs will serve Latino youth, if they are not already doing so.

The term Latino refers to the nearly one in four youth residing in the U.S. who come from different Latin American nationalities, although they have varying races, cultures, language proficiencies, and experiences in the U.S. While an increasing amount of individuals identify themselves as Latino, most still refer to themselves by their Latin American country of origin. In addition, an increasing number of these individuals are simply referring to themselves as American. This is apt, as approximately 92% of them are U.S. citizens.

While Latinos have a variety of differences, they are often united by the many struggles they experience. These struggles date back hundreds of years and include oppression by those in power. The net result of these struggles is that Latinos are lacking in many key developmental areas, suggesting developmental needs for youth programs to address. In a recent article, I highlighted these deficit developmental areas, which include social, cognitive, physical, and spiritual developmental domains. Below, I will briefly highlight some of the key factors within each of these.


Social Development — The individuals we surround ourselves with influence our behaviors and, ultimately, help us to define who we are. Out-of-school time programs often focus on enhancing the developmental assets of youth, and, sometimes, changing deviant behavior to more positive behavior. For Latino youth, the family is the most important component in their lives. In a recent study, my colleagues and I found a Latino child’s parental self-concept was the most, and, in fact, the only salient predictor of their life satisfaction when compared with other elements of self-concept, such as academics or peers.

More specific to deviant behavior, research suggests that the more acculturated Latinos are (i.e., the more they have adopted the American culture), the more likely they are to engage in deviant behavior (such as doing drugs, drinking alcohol, and having sex). This immigration paradox has contributed to the teen pregnancy rates among Latinas, which is currently higher than any other major race/ethnic group in the U.S., at 13%. Gang membership, which has received an extensive amount of coverage in the news because of the violent acts committed by these individuals, was in fact quite low, at 1% of total Latino youth.[1]

Physical Development — Latinos are often raised in poorer communities, ones in which community safety and the availability of facilities for physical activity and recreation continues to be a challenge. Of all the major racial/ethnic groups in the US, Latinos have the highest levels of being overweight and risk of obesity.[2]

Given the high rates of overweight and obesity, it seems almost contradictory that 34% of Latinos live in households with food insecurity, where they don’t know where their next meal will come from. This suggests that the quality of the food many Latino youth are consuming may be contributing to their overweight levels. Programs for youth should help to address these areas. This also serves as a preventive measure for adult-onset diabetes, which is becoming more commonplace among Latino adults.

Cognitive Development — From the moment a Latino youth steps in the door of their first grade class, he or she is often behind academically.[3] In part, this is due to fewer Latino families placing their children in early childhood programs compared to their non-Latino counterparts. This deficit persists throughout elementary, middle, and high school, where just over one in two Latinos graduate high school.

Regarding higher education, only 13% of Latinos have a bachelor’s degree or higher, as compared to the rates for African Americans (17.5%), Whites (31%), and individuals of Asian descent (50%). This low academic achievement level contributes to the economic instability of Latino families and affects the overall U.S. economy. It also has implications for a host of other important social wellbeing indicators.

Spiritual Development — Many programs tend to avoid incorporating spiritual and religious components, which I view as a missed opportunity. Approximately 90% of Latinos are Christian, with 70% being Catholics. A young person’s spiritual development impacts his or her identity formation, resilience, delinquency rates, and overall wellbeing. For Latinos, their religion often is a source of hope, a meaning in life, and a significant component of their spiritual growth. Religion is one element of their lives Latino youth may turn to as adults in order to cope with life stressors.

Latino youth have a number of challenges that are often not experienced by their non-Latino counterparts. I’ve highlighted a few of these key differences for youth programmers to keep in mind as they develop out-of-school time programs. However, it is imperative to stress that these deficits only represent one aspect of youth development and should not define these youth.

The 17 million plus Latino youth in the U.S. are a potential positive force who can help shape a bright future for our country. Unfortunately, they are presently an untapped resource whose potential we know very little about. It is something I will continue to help remedy throughout my research career.

Ariel Rodríguez is an assistant professor at ASU in the School of Community Resources and Development. Dr. Rodríguez’s research focuses on healthy lifestyles among youth, and his teaching philosophy emphasizes the importance of experiential learning and community development.

References
^ [1] National Youth Gang Center. (2009). National youth gang survey analysis. Retrieved May 5, 2011.

^ [2] Hook, J. V., Balistreri, K. S., & Baker, E. (2009). Moving to the land of milk and cookies: Obesity among the children of immigrants. Retrieved April 28, 2011.

^ [3] Nevarez, C., & Rico, T. (2007). Latino education: A synthesis of recurring recommendations and solutions in P-16 education. Retrieved May 1, 2011.

Rodríguez, A., Larsen, D., Látková, P., & Mertel, S. J. (2011). Development of Latino youth: Implications for park and recreation programs and services. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Rodríguez, A., Látková, P., & Martinez, R. (2011). Effects of self-concept on life satisfaction in Latino children. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Rodríguez, M. C., Morrobel, D., & Villarruel, F. A. (2003). "Research realities and a vision of success for Latino youth development." In F. A. Villarruel, D. F. Perkins, L. M. Borden & J. G. Keith (Eds.), Community youth development: Programs, policies, and practices (pp. 47-78). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Click here for a complete list of references. (PDF)


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Comments

This was very interesting to read, thank you for sharing this research. As a Latina myself, I grew up in inner city Phoenix and I have seen the Latino youth population grow greatly in my old community. There was a time period where the community centers and church groups could not keep up with and adjust to accommodate the growth.
I have always been proud of the Latino emphasis on family, though I can see how this can impede a child's social and educational development. Mom stays home with young children, and if she can't, nana (grandma) does, so many Latino youth never see a daycare or a preschool and enter kindergarten with no knowledge of the alphabet, numbers, etc.
The food insecurity and obesity rates make sense to me. Growing up we were told to eat all of our food, even if we weren't hungry anymore. We never threw anything away or let anything spoil - that would be a waist of the little money we had to buy the food. If we ever had the opportunity to go to a buffet or a function with a lot of food, we were told to eat all that we could, to get our money's worth.
Thank you again for sharing. I consider myself a product of out-of-school-time programs and proof of the positive resource Latino youth can become.

I found this article intriguing. I help with an organization called Neighborhood Ministries, which is concerned with this issue in particular. It does a very good job at tying the spiritual and religious aspects of this people group into out-of-school time. I was very happy that you added the disclaimer near the end of the article, stating that Latino youth are a "potential positive force." I think that this needs to be stressed more often. One of the biggest problems that I have found is a lack of confidence in most of the Latino youth that I have worked with. I think that once they believe they can achieve great things, they will. Out-of-school programs are a great way to increase this confidence and provide means for these children to learn many of the skills that are not provided to them otherwise. Thank you for sharing this information as it is a necessary aspect of society that is often overlooked.

I want to thank you Mr. Rodriguez for writing this article, I found it very informing and learned a lot about the latino culture that I did not know before. These statistics were eye opening. The fact that 34 percent of the latino culture live in households with food insecurity, and they don’t know where their next meal will come from is insane, especially in the United Sates. Thank you again for sharing!

-Andrew Richardson

This article was really eye opening for me. I found it very interesting that negative behaviors increase as the population becomes more Americanized. Also, the news is always highlighting gang violence in this community, but nobody ever mentions that Latinos only account for 1% of gang activity. I think after school programs are so important for these children. Also, I did not know that 90% of Latinos identified themselves as Christians/Catholics. Understanding this, it would be great to incorporate this and the importance of family into the programs for these youths.

-Michelle Chase

I agree with everything said in this post. Out-of-school programs are critical to keeping Latino youth in school and out of violence, crime, and early parenthood. The college degree rate is shocking, (though it's also pretty shocking for African-Americans), it's indicative that race and poverty seem to be barriers to higher education, despite the existence of Financial Aid. Although preparing youth for college is more important than simply encouraging them to attend college, and obviously that's a job our nation is failing to do. Thank you for posting this research.

~Chantal Duquette

This post brings back similarities within my Latino relatives. I grew up to understand that the most important thing is family and till this day I stick to it. I was fortunate to be able to grow up in a better area in Arizona than many of my other relatives. My Latino parents wanted us to have better opportunities and a safer childhood than they had experienced. I grew up seeing the struggles that my other relatives went through in bad parts of town or the challenges they had with some of the developmental areas you listed. My relatives could have exceeded a better lifestyle if there were more youth programs. I think it is important to continue to educate Latino parents and guardians as well as youth in order to make them understand that there can be positive change for future Latinos.
Tatianna

Mr. Rodriguez thank you for sharing this blog with us, I found it to be very, very informative. Back home in Connecticut, my mom is the head of a program in the same category as what you preach. It is called the Stamford Youth Foundation and it is a nonprofit organization which gives underpriveledged, or just kids in general, oppurtunities to participate in things which they may have never been able to (I.e. football, lacrosse, baseball, painting, dancing, chess, poetry, etc.) I completely agree with your statement that, “Out-of-school time programs often focus on enhancing the developmental assets of youth, and, sometimes, changing deviant behavior to more positive behavior.” This should be a goal for all of us, to give these children something better to do with their leisure time so they do not become another negative statistic (I.e. drug addict, prisoner) but rather a positive statistic (I.e. college degree, political leader).

-Kevin Flaig

Dr. Rodriguez - Amazing! It is time to shed light on the issues that in my opinion can be over come in the Latino community. I am a firm believe that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". If we can equip these young Latinos with the tools necessary to function in society as responsible adults; they will know nothing less and will not become statistics of society. I'm positive that programs need to developed and implemented in order to "save" this young Latino population.

Too many times I hear negative comments with respect to Latino youth; people often have the misconception that their parent's do not care about them and therefore they turn to drug use, gangs, drinking, etc. However, I take a different view on this. Being Latina myself I know that my parent's cared however, they lacked the knowledge to empower me. Therefore, I think there is a two fold solution; equip our youth and education our parents. After all, knowledge is power!

Thank you for shedding light and drawing attention to this most important topic.

-Rita Rodriguez

This was a very interesting article to read, especially considering we are able to see these reoccurring situations right in front of our eyes. We see pregnant Latina youth on the street, we see starving Latino children outside our homes, and we witness on our television the death of several Latino youth. I was taught last year in a class called “The Pleasure and Leisure of Life” about the ways on which out bodies develop and learn and grow, and how we are so easily influenced during our younger stages of life. Our teacher used puppies as an example, explaining that they play and learn from each other, teaching the others their good and sometimes bad habits, the bad habits sticking the most. It is because they do not know any better, because they have no other interactions, that their bad behaviors develop and stay. Social development within the young Latino race works almost the exact same way. There are far more bad behaviors to be learnt in this world than there are good, and unfortunately the Latino youth in the United States seem to develop these habits quite easily. They are a world within their own, they do not see or experience any other interactions other than the ones within their own home, family, and schooling. Although quite unfortunate, it is seemingly inevitable that the influences within this particular race will never change.
- Katrina Polyhronopoulos

I feel that Latinos can have a huge impact in America because of the number. If out of school time programs increase I feel that young latinos will choose the different path for their future instead of going to gangs, doing drugs etc. I think especially young latinos need that extra push towards a promising future and out of school programs could definitely do that. Programs being available to those people that do not have a promising future will might change their future path.

In a class I am currently enrolled in, we talked about the "village of 100 people." It had similar information to the statistics you are using here. I think it is shocking that we have statistics for our latino youth like this. I didn't know that a latino child is disadvantaged from the minute they step into their first grade classroom due to the choices their parents made about their educations. I am a catholic latina and I know that family and religion are high on priorities in our family, similar to many other latino families. It really makes sense that with over 30% of latino families having food insecurities that latinos have the highest rate of obesity. If I don't have enough money I will go to the drive-thru dollar menu as oppose to spending $10-$20 at the grocery store on dinner. I enjoyed your article and agree but am shocked with the statistics.

Hi, I am Melissa McManus.Thank you so much for this post. In my TDM 210 class you spoke of "Village of 100 People." It really opened my eyes and made me realize a lot of things that I had not known before. The statistics that you showed were very interesting and they made a lot of sense. I believe that in any instance after school programs help a lot of children to develop in those ways. After school programs keep kids out of trouble, help them to connect with other children their age. The benefits are tremendous. I think that they should be implemented more often for latino youths and other children as well.

This post was definitely very eye opening and interesting to read. For starters, I did not realize how many youth were considered Latinos, with such a varrying range of backgrounds. Next, it was interesting to see the different type of developments that were focused on, and how they relate to latino youth. Out-of-School programs are definitely something that could be extremely beneficial to any youth, but in the case of latinos and the statistics provided, having those programs available seems ideal. Supporting these children and giving them tools they can use to be successful and beat the statistics makes sense and there is no reason that programs should not be available. I really enjoyed reading this and getting a little eye opener.
-Megan Gerken

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