Title: Psychosocial Mechanisms of African American and Latino Developmental Health

PI: Enrique W. Neblett, Ph.D.

Co PIs: Gabriela Livas Stein, Ph.D., & Jonathan Livingston, Ph.D.


Project Description

Despite the goal set by Healthy People 2010 to eliminate health disparities (USDHHS, 2000),
African Americans and Latinos (nationally and at the state-level) continue to be disproportionately
affected by life-threatening diseases relative to non-Hispanic Whites (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular
disease, hypertension). While evidence supporting these disparities is clear, the incorporation of a
developmental science framework to understanding them is lacking. We do not understand how these
racial and ethnic disparities develop over time, whether there are critical or sensitive periods of
development when these disparities come online, or what contextual factors contribute to and influence
the trajectories of health outcomes over the life course. The primary aim of the proposed planning grant
is to build a new interdisciplinary collaborative team between scholars at UNC Chapel Hill (UNC-CH),
UNC-Greensboro (UNC-G), and North Carolina Central University (NCCU) that will examine candidate
psychosocial mechanisms across multiple levels (e.g., biological, psychological, etc.) during adolescence
and the transition to adulthood that may account for well-established population differences in African
American and Latino populations’ developmental health. Two guiding questions are: 1) What are
candidate psychosocial mechanisms (and changes in psychosocial mechanisms) during adolescence
and emerging adulthood that may account for individual differences in health vulnerability for African
Americans and Latinos over the life course?; and 2) What are mechanisms of racial, ethnic, and
psychosocial resilience that protect against negative developmental health outcomes for African
American and Latino adolescents and young adults?
Drawing on the expertise of three lead investigators and building on the seminal integrative model
for minority children articulated by GarcĂ­a Coll and colleagues (1996) and the social determinants of
health framework described by Braveman and colleagues (2011), we seek to: build an interinstitutional,
interdisciplinary team (psychology, public health, sociology, education, etc.) with expertise in racial and
ethnic minority health; further develop the concept of racial and ethnic minority developmental health;
plan a consortium speaker series; and lay the foundation for a new culture and development core at the
UNC-CH Center for Developmental Science (CDS). During the funding period, we will write a conceptual
paper developing the focal concepts and emerging research questions, and lay the groundwork for
developing a grant application for external funds (e.g., to NIH, NSF, Robert Wood Johnson, William T.
Grant, and Sage Foundations). The proposed focus will increase our understanding of psychosocial
mechanisms that shape African American and Latino developmental health over the life course, change
how we think about health disparities to incorporate a more developmental framing, strengthen the
research infrastructure at the partnering universities, identify North Carolina as a critical resource on this
issue, and lay the foundation for future research that will inform intervention design and alleviate the
health challenges of African American and Latino populations affected by health disparities in NC.


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