Overall, my research looks at how children learn within social situations. I am interested in how children learn from parents, peers, and media as well as how cultural contexts broadly affect children's learning.
As an undergraduate at Wellesley College, I worked with Dr. Emily Cleveland on a study of parent-child reminiscing conversations. That is, how do parents talk with their preschoolers about memories of events? To read more about this study, please click here.
In graduate school, I continued to conduct research in parent-child interactions. My master's thesis looked at how parental beliefs about learning (parental ethnotheories) affect how parents teach their children a task using verbal or non-verbal teaching methods. To read more about this study, please click here.
I have continued my interest in parental autonomy support with a collaboration with Dr. Cleveland looking at parental autonomy support within non-explanatory parent-child conversations. Young children ask a lot of questions, and a large amount of research has suggested that when children ask causal questions, they want and expect causal answers. But what happens if the parent doesn't give a causal answer? We investigated different types of non-explanatory responses. This work is currently under review.
In my work in the Intergroup Social Perception Lab under the direction of Dr. Kristin Pauker, I have been involved in a series of studies looking at how parents may implicitly or explicitly teach their children about race and interethnic interactions.
My doctoral dissertation examined gender stereotypes within television shows aimed at preschool-aged children. I conducted a thorough content analysis of the shows as well as an experiment where children are shown a series of stereotyped clips, a series of counter-stereotyped clips, or a combination and then asked about their knowledge of gender stereotypes, gender essentialism, and their motivation to persist in a difficult task.
In the future, I am interested in looking at how children learn specific concepts from television shows, how television can be tailored to help children learn more, and how different styles of parent-child co-viewing can help children learn concepts or mitigate the negative effects of seeing stereotyped behavior on television.
Cultural Context of Child Development
One of the main reasons I chose to attend graduate school in Hawai`i was the cultural diversity. Many aspects of this cultural context make it a unique place to study child development. First, there is no racial majority group here and there are a high number of people who identify as multiracial. Second, there are a higher number of Pacific Islanders than anywhere else in the United States. Because the Pacific Islands (Hawai`i especially) are geographically isolated, the cultural context is unique from other cultures across the world.
After my first year of graduate school, I was awarded a Society for Psychological Anthropology/Lemelson Foundation award for pre-dissertation field work. With this award, I travelled to Molokai, Maui, and Kaua`i to conduct interviews with Native Hawaiian parents of preschoolers about how their children learn. This work has been presented at conferences (Society for Psychological Anthropology, International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology) and is currently being prepared for publication.
Drs. Kristin Pauker, Yiyuan Xu, Amanda Williams and I published a paper in Child Development which examines differences in race essentialism and knowledge of in-group & out-group stereotypes between children in Boston and Hawai`i. Overall, we found that broader social context (Hawai`i vs. Boston) had effects on children's lay theories about race. Most notably, children in Massachusetts showed a greater increase in race essentialism and out-group stereotyping with age than children in Hawai`i.
In addition to my training in cultural contexts in Hawai`i, I have also had the opportunity to attend the PhD summer school before the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology conference in Reims, France in July 2014. I was selected to attend the Culture & Human Development stream and spent an intensive 3 days with graduate students from around the world learning new methods in cross-cultural developmental psychology.