Latest program developments

The Fellows Program Announces Research Initiative with New York University Child Study Center on the Effects of Developmental Transactions during Early Childhood on the Mental Health and Functioning of Young Dominican Children

New York, October 22, 2012

The Fellows Program is pleased to announce that it will be collaborating with the New York University Child Study Center to realize a research project that will investigate how parenting practices impact the well-being and development of young children. The initiative will complement other studies undertaken by the Child Study Center to identify risks and protective factors that affect the mental health and functioning of children of Dominican and Mexican heritage in New York City.

The impetus behind this study is the desire to pinpoint the factors contributing to the documented high risk for delinquency, substance abuse, suicide, teenage pregnancy and school dropout rates among Latino youth in the United States. According to psychological theories, such mental health and academic problems experienced by adolescents correspond to development transactions that begin during early childhood (between the ages of 3 and 6 years old).

A research team from the Child Study Center, headed by Associate Director of the Center for Early Childhood Health and Development and Associate Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU, Dr. Esther Calzada, will partner with The Fellows Program, an extension of the internship and academic exchange program InteRDom, to conduct research on the ground in the Dominican Republic with families of Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and First Grade students. Families from 27 schools in the Dominican Republic will participate in the investigation. Through comparative analysis of Dominican children in the United States and Dominican children in the Dominican Republic, the project aims to collect evidence regarding the impacts of culture, migration and acculturation on family processes and child mental health.

In terms of methodology, the Child Study Center’s team of bilingual mental health professionals will administered questionnaires on cultural values, parenting and child functioning to mothers that consent to participate in the study.

The initiative desires to collect information that will promote mental health and academic success among youth. Findings will be used to inform the adaptation of family interventions for young Dominican children living in and outside of the Dominican Republic.

On Thursday, October 25, The Fellows Program will organize an information session for representatives of the 27 schools participating in the project. The event will take place at 10:30 am at FUNGLODE headquarters in Santo Domingo.

The administration of the questionnaires to the parents of the schools selected by the research team will take place February 2-16.

About the NYU Child Center Research Team:
Esther Calzada, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (Child Study Center) at the NYU School of Medicine, and the associate director of the Center for Early Childhood Health and Development (CEHD) within the Department.  In her capacity as associate director of CEHD, she works with local, state and national partners in the dissemination of evidence-based prevention programs to promote behavioral and academic competencies among young ethnic minority children. As a clinical researcher, Dr. Calzada has been studying culture, parenting and mental health among Latinos and other immigrant populations for more than ten years. She has received funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and her work has been presented in national and international conferences and in numerous peer-reviewed journals.  Dr. Calzada oversees all aspects of LINCs and will provide oversight for the proposed study as well. 

Margarita Paredes, Psy.D., serves as clinical supervisor for the project.  She is responsible for overseeing services for children and families and has also been the lead clinician to provide a series of workshops on child development and mental health to 24 schools throughout New York City.  Being from the Dominican Republic, she is very interested in learning more about Dominican families in NYC as well as those in the DR, and how family processes influence young children’s success in school. Before coming to NYU, Dr. Paredes directed a program for children exposed to violence and provided counseling services.

R. Gabriela Barajas, Ph.D., is an associate research scientist at the NYU Child Study Center.  She assists with data analyses, data management, and manuscript preparation for the project.  The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she is committed to conducting research that promotes the health and well-being of Latino families. Prior to working at the NYU Child Study Center, she worked at the National Center for Children and Families as a graduate research fellow for six years. Dr. Barajas received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University in 2011.

Melissa Santos, MSW., serves as a research associate on the project.  As a social worker with an interest in educational outcomes, Ms. Santos has taken a lead role in providing parent and student workshops in the project’s 24 partner schools. Ms. Santos has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Women and Gender Studies from Columbia University. As an undergraduate student, she received a McNair fellowship to research the impact of parental involvement on academic achievement in African American and Latino high school students in New York City. After completing her undergraduate work, Ms. Santos pursed a Master’s degree in social work from New York University with a focus on urban education. During her graduate studies, Ms. Santos worked at Isaac Newton Middle School and Manhattan Center for Science and Math high school assisting ELL students who were facing academic difficulties. In the future, Ms. Santos plans to continue doing research that will help improve the educational attainment of Latino students.

Miguel E. Hernandez, MAPP, serves as a research assistant on the project.  His primary roles include conducting standardized assessments with Latina mothers and their children and managing and analyzing incoming data on Latino families and schools. After graduating from Stony Brook University with a Masters in Public Policy in 2008, Mr. Hernandez served in numerous roles in local research initiatives across disciplines. Prior to joining NYU in 2011, he worked as a Data Collector on a project seeking to understand the impact of NYC health policies on poor urban communities. He also has strong international experience. As Research Fellow with InterDom in the Dominican Republic, he studied the implementation of civil service legislation in the country and completed his Masters Research thesis on the topic.

Denise Ramirez, BA, serves as a research assistant for the project.  She has worked at the NYU Child Study Center since 2009, where she has been involved in a series of studies with Latino families.  She also serves as a data collector for Montclair State University on a project, Adolescent Family Life, which seeks to obtain knowledge on Afro-Caribbean and Latina teenage mothers in foster care.  Through these experiences, Ms. Ramirez has become highly proficient in working with the Latino community and knowledgeable about several issues relevant to Latino child development including acculturation and ethnic identity.   Her passion for working with Latino communities stems from her Dominican background.  Beginning in August, Ms. Ramirez will pursue a master’s degree in social work at New York University.
Marlene Bonnelly, BA, serves as a research assistant for the project. As an undergraduate student at New York University, she aided in managing several studies across the Amodio Social Neuroscience and Heilman Laboratories. She also participated in the Diversity Internship Career and Preparation Program, which sought to encourage and support minority students through their developing professional careers. Based on her experiences on the project, she has a strong motivation to work with and help her fellow Latinos succeed academically. Ms. Bonnelly hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology.

 Yaniris M. Gomez, BA, serves as a research assistant for the project. Prior to joining the NYU Child Study Center, Ms. Gomez completed her undergraduate studies at Columbia University, where she was a research assistant in the Intergroup Relations and Diversity Lab. She was also an Undergraduate Research Fellow at the Columbia’s Neurological Institute. As part of a community outreach program, Ms. Gomez taught the basics of Neuroscience to middle school students in Spanish Harlem. In the future, she plans on pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

Diana Singh, BA, serves as a research assistant for the project.  She is responsible for coordinating workshops across the 24 New York City public schools participating in the project and for conducting assessments with mothers, children and teachers. Ms. Singh has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Public Administration and is certified to teach secondary level social studies. Prior to working at the NYU Child Study Center, she worked as a substitute teacher for 3 years in New Jersey public schools. She worked with children of various ages and from different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds.  Ms. Singh has considerable experience working in poor urban communities and has a great interest in doing research to improve the welfare of the Latino population.

Erika Soriano, BA, serves as a research assistant on the project. In addition to assessing participating mothers and children, Ms. Soriano acts as the liaison for schools and community who work with the project.  In this role, she helps to maintain positive relations between the research project and our partner schools and families. Ms. Soriano also worked on Dr. Calzada’s previous NIH-funded research project, Cultural Adaptation of Hispanic Parents (CAHP), and as a data collector for a study focused on food availability and health and nutrition in an underserved community in the Bronx.     

Maité Covas, BA, serves as a research assistant on the project. She is responsible for collecting, managing and analyzing data on participating mothers, children and teachers. Previously, Ms. Covas worked as a data assistant on a project to provide mental health services to Afro-Caribbean children in Brooklyn, NY. A native of Puerto Rico, she graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

The Fellows Program looks forward to collaborating with the NYU Child Study Center on this initiative of profound impact to Dominicans in the Dominican Republic and the United States. The partnership is of particular significance in that it represents the first initiative in the area of early childhood development to be implemented by InteRDom and The Fellows Program.

About The Fellows Program:
The Fellows Program, an extension of the internship and academic exchange program InteRDom, was developed in 2009 to respond to the  desire of GFDD and FUNGLODE to develop a community of scholars that contributes to the Foundations’ growing body of research on matters of international concern that directly impact the Dominican Republic, complementing the overall mission of GFDD and FUNGLODE to promote academic exchange, generate scholarship, and influence the creation of public policy related to economic and social development both at the national and international level.
Through The Fellows Program, GFDD and FUNGLODE seek to generate scholarship on issues at the forefront of the United Nations’ agenda in order to give voice to national and regional concerns and offer viable solutions to domestic and international challenges.

The Fellows Program provides opportunities for M.S., M.A. and Ph.D. candidates and professors interested in conducting high-level research in the Dominican Republic on issues related to sustainable development. The final output of the investigation is a comprehensive report which includes empirical data. Fellows realize research in coordination with GFDD and FUNGLODE staff, National Advisor and their university professors.
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