Graduation Year: 2019
Dissertation: “Re-thinking Race Among Adolescents in a Multiracial Generation: An Emerging Research and Public Health Approach to Identity and Health”
Sponsor: Prof. Diana Hernandez
WHAT WAS YOUR DISSERTATION TOPIC AND RESEARCH?
My dissertation investigated the topic of multiracial identification among adolescents and young adults. There is a growing group of adolescents and young adults in the United States who identify as multiracial. I combine and synthesize research from adolescent medicine, sociology, psychology and public health to develop an empirically testable conceptual framework that guides my work. I then used two nationally representative datasets to examine parent and child racial and ethnic identification, psychosocial outcomes, peer networks and treatment, and risk behavior engagement for multiracial and single-race adolescents and young adults. Findings from these papers demonstrate that when compared to single-race peers, multiracial adolescents and young adults are not at increased risk for depressive symptoms, being involved with risky peer groups, or engaging in risk behaviors such as tobacco use, or alcohol use. This dissertation emphasizes the importance of integrating public health research with historical and demographic context. It also argues for approaching data analysis with theory and conceptual reasoning so as to most accurately update public health research using categories that more closely correlate with how individuals self-identify.
My dissertation work combined many of my public health interests including adolescents, identity and identification and racial disparities in health. I enjoy working with adolescents and young adults and believe strongly that public health needs to move toward more strength-based approaches to health and wellbeing. I enjoy working on inter-disciplinary teams and sitting at the intersection between multiple disciplines – something that SMS definitely prepared me to do.
HOW HAS THE “SMS LENS” (SEEING PUBLIC HEALTH AS EMBEDDED IN SOCIAL/CULTURAL/ECONOMIC/POLITICAL CONTEXTS) INFLUENCED YOUR PROFESSIONAL ATTITUDES AND APPROACHES IN ADDRESSING ISSUES IN YOUR WORK?
The SMS lens allowed me to situate an understanding of multiracial populations in a historical and theoretical context. The training I received in SMS pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me create a dissertation that ‘speaks’ to different disciplines. It is through interdisciplinary work that we will be able to continue to push the field of public health forward, and I think the SMS lens is a strong tool to have for a career in public health.