Culture & Child Development Lab
In the Culture and Child Development Lab, spearheaded by Dr. Yana Kuchirko, we examine the role of culture and context in human development.
Our work is grounded in theories and scholarship across disciplines, with an emphasis on critical perspectives, macro-level ideologies and narratives, and social constructions of childhood. Current research projects focus on understanding how parents across ethnic/racial groups construct and regulate children’s access to what they deem is emotionally “difficult knowledge.” Students in the lab are leading investigations into a broad range of culturally-grounded topics including anti-Asian discrimination and socialization of Asian-American youth, contextual factors that shape perceptions of social mobility, K-12 teachers' perspectives on how race and racism shape pedagogy, cultural factors shaping the identity of Indian adolescents, how gentrification in Newark shapes the identity of Black youth, cultural variation in endorsement of gender norms among Latine communities, and decolonizing the conceptualization and measurement of Mexican children’s cognitive development. Across all the studies, we employ various methods (e.g., observational, survey, visual, qualitative) to understand the contexts and discourses that shape the lives of children and youth. The lab is housed at Brooklyn College, City University of New York
“Like Two Musketeers”: Socialization beliefs about toddler’s friendships among Dominican, Mexican, and African American mothers
Yana Kuchirko, Anna Bennet, Linda Nisanova, Jahnavi De Sousa
Parental ethnotheories shape socialization beliefs around childrearing more broadly, and children’s friendships more specifically. While prior work has examined aspects of parental socialization of friendships among school-aged chil- dren and adolescents, no studies have examined beliefs held around the function of friendships among ethnically diverse mothers of toddlers from low-socioeconomic contexts. Toddlerhood marks a point in development when the concept of “friendship” gains impact and relevance due to leaps in children’s social, cognitive, and motor skills, as well as children’s increasing access to contexts where they organically encounter peers. Toddlerhood is also a time when caregivers may initially consider the influence of peers on their children, beliefs that could eventually guide and shift how they navigate socialization practices around friendship. In the present study, we document U.S. Dominican American, African American, and Mexican American mothers’ socializa- tion beliefs around functions of friendship for their 2-year- old children. We found that mothers emphasized a variety of friendship functions, including learning of social skills and morality, and communicating and experiencing emotions. A majority of mothers viewed their children’s friendships as unidirectional, and framed their children as undiscerning in their engagement with social information from peers. Findings are discussed in relation to mothers’ orientation to children and “childhood” via cultural and developmental beliefs.
Comparison of U.S. and Tajik infants' time in containment devices
Lana B. Karasik, Yana A. Kuchirko, Rano M. Dodojonova, Jed T. Elison
How infants are held or contained throughout the day shape infants' experiences, particularly around movement and exploration. In Tajikistan, caregivers use ‘gahvora’ cradles, which severely restrict the body and limbs. The present study explored the variability and use of containment devices in U.S. and Tajik infants. Using time diaries, we compared 12-month-olds in the U.S. and Tajikistan on the types of containments used and the time spent in them throughout the day. During the day, Tajik infants accumulated more time in gahvoras than infants in the U.S. spent in cribs, primarily used for sleep, suggesting gahvoras served other functions. Given the availability of other devices, U.S. infants' time was distributed in short yet frequent bouts across devices. Accumulated time in these containments matched accumulated time Tajik infants spent in gahvoras. Tajik infants accumulated more unrestricted time on the ground, which was distributed in prolonged bouts, than U.S. infants. Findings highlight differences in infants' everyday experiences during the developmental period when motor skills emerge. By embracing commonalities and exploring differences between cultures, this study offers insights into differences in infants' everyday experiences and opportunities for movement.
The influence of siblings on ethnically diverse children’s gender typing across early development
Yana Kuchirko, Anna Bennet, May Ling Halim, Philip Costanzo, Diane Ruble
Most U.S. children grow up with siblings. Theory and prior work suggest that older siblings are important sources of gender-related information and socialization. However, few studies have investigated the patterns of these associations longitudinally across early childhood. The present study examines the influence of sibling presence and gender composition on the trajectory of early gender-typed behavior and appearance in children from age 2 through 6 in a diverse sample of Dominican American (36%), African American (33%), and Mexican American (31%) mother–child dyads (N = 232; 112 girls, 120 boys) from low-income households in New York City (M = $20,459, SD = 14,632). Results found that children without older siblings spent more time playing with counterstereotypical toys and their mothers’ reports indicated similar behavior over the past month (e.g., a girl playing with toy vehicles and balls; a boy playing with toy kitchen sets and dolls) than children with older siblings. Further, children with at least one other-gender sibling (e.g., a girl with an older brother) played more frequently with counterstereotypical toys compared with children with only same-gender siblings (e.g., a girl with only older sisters). Results on the relation between siblings and gender appearance were mixed. Older siblings may thus influence early trajectories of important gender domains (e.g., toy play), which can have various long-term implications for developing skills and interests.
The influence of center-based care on young children's gender development
Anna Bennet, Yana Kuchirko, May Ling Halim, Philip Costanzo, Diane Ruble
Many U.S. children spend a significant amount of time in center-based care prior to entering preschool. Previous theory and research would suggest center-based care settings offer important opportunities for gender socialization as children here are surrounded by multiple sources of gender-typing information (e.g. peers, adults, toys and activities). The present longitudinal study examined whether center-based care enrollment status influences level and timing of children's gender-typed behaviors (same-gender friendships, play and appearance), and knowledge (self-categorization and stereotyping) between the ages of 2–5. Participants were children and their mothers of low-income, urban backgrounds (N = 232; African American, Mexican American, and Dominican American). Overall, children enrolled in center-based care at ages 2 and 3 showed higher gender-typing patterns than children enrolled later or not at all. Associations were strongest for same-gender-friendships and gender-typed play, domains that might affect children's subsequent engagement in and learning of certain tasks, skillsets, and activities.
Literacy and Learning in Times of Crisis
In this collection, Literacy and Learning in Times of Crisis: Emergent Teaching Through Emergencies, the contributors offer insights from theoretical, historical, and pedagogical lenses and these critical insights emerge out of their academic, scholarly, and personal experiences of teaching during crises. In some cases, authors have taught while battling COVID, and others have done so while addressing and acknowledging school-based violence. While some teach the analysis of the discourse of crisis, others critique the missteps of policy-making during calamity. More so, some authors examine the finesse of micro-teaching at emotional levels; others find the means to develop macro-structures of programmatic curriculum. Literacy and Learning in Times of Crisis highlights the educational decision making that educators have used to cope with the dilemmas that they and their students have faced at the turn of the millennium. Specifically, contributors to this collection offer a broad range of experiences, expertise, and engagement with pedagogy during emergencies that we currently face but also frame issues of emergencies that will inevitably challenge educators in the future.
The Maternal Sensitivity Program
This book presents the Maternal Sensitivity Program (MSP), an eight-session home-delivered intervention designed to enhance overall maternal sensitivity to infant behavior between the third and the tenth month of life using video feedback and live modeling strategies. The intervention was based on successful international programs but was specifically developed to fit the realities and needs of low-income countries, whose public health services rely on scarce human and economic resources. The program aims to promote maternal acknowledgment of infant mental activity and model responses that encourage infants' communication of intentions, needs, desires, and emotions.
The first part of the book provides an overview of core theories related to the concept of maternal sensitivity, illustrating how it varies across cultural contexts, and how it is shaped by economic scarcity. The second part of the book presents evidence of the effectiveness of sensitivity-based interventions, describes and provides a rationale for the Maternal Sensitivity Program (MSP), and proposes a framework for training interventionists seeking to implement the program in different contexts. The third part of the book presents the intervention manual, describing in detail the procedures in each of the eight sessions of the program.
The Maternal Sensitivity Program: A Model for Promoting Infant Development in Challenging Contexts will be an invaluable resource for developmental psychologists, health care providers, and social workers who work with families in low-income countries and in contexts of social vulnerability and need to implement low-cost interventions to foster healthy child development.
Our Research Collective
Assistant Professor of Psychology and Lab Director
Dr. Yana Kuchirko is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Brooklyn College College and The Graduate Center. She received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from New York University. Her work is grounded in theories and scholarship across disciplines, with an emphasis on critical perspectives, macro-level ideologies and narratives, and social constructions of childhood. Dr. Kuchirko's current body of work centers on how cultural constructions of childhood guide socialization of young children. Ongoing projects focus on understanding how parents across ethnic/racial groups construct and regulate children’s access to what they deem is emotionally “difficult knowledge.” She loves to cook, read, and take long bike rides around NYC.
Associate Professor of Psychology and Children & Youth Studies, Collaborator
Dr. Erika Niwa's research examines how cultural context, particularly ethnicity and race, shapes the social, emotional, and cognitive development of ethnically diverse youth and adolescents. Her work focuses on three main areas: the impact of ethno-political violence on social-cognitive and psychological adjustment among children and adolescents; the role of ethnic-racial discrimination in shaping social and psychological adjustment among early adolescents; and the development of ethnic and racial identities.
Associate Professor of Psychology & Collaborator
Dr. Karasik and her research team is interested in how culture and childrearing practices shape infants' learning opportunities thereby affecting developmental outcomes. How does culture affect which skills infants acquire and when? How do cultural practices shape opportunities for infants to practice crawling, walking, and using cultural artifacts and objects? Through naturalistic and experimental investigations, we examine how infants' emerging motor skills offer new ways to explore and navigate their environment, engage with people, and use social information from others. We examine how caregivers update their expectations and behaviors as a result of their infants' changing skills. To answer these questions, we conduct studies in the lab and in the field; in the U.S. and abroad to capture the range of infants' experiences and individual differences. Dr. Karasik directs the Culture & Development Lab located in 4S; visit www.karasiklab.org to learn more.on’s role and responsibilities, or add a short bio with a background summary. It’s also a great opportunity to highlight how this person is an asset to the team.
Kristina Arevalo is a doctoral student in Developmental Psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is interested in ethnic-racial socialization, discrimination, colonialism, and how it shapes identity development and processes in Asian Americans. Currently, she is the lab manager and is involved in several projects. She piloted her own study on anti-Asian discrimination during COVID-19, a project looking at teacher’s racial framework and pedagogy, and a study on how parents talk about difficult topics with their children. When she is not doing research, she enjoys reading books, watching TV, playing video games, and she loves to cook and bake for her loved ones.
Dinorah Hudson is a doctoral student in Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate center. Her research interests include the impact of cultural competencies and racial-ethnic socialization of classroom teachers on student achievement, the effectiveness of diversity, equity, and inclusion training in schools, and designing a curriculum that helps promote metacognition and metaemotional management to improve student well-being. She served as an adjunct professor in the physical sciences department of Westchester Community College and a Yoga instructor for Bronx Community College. She earned her B.S. in Geology and M.A. in Secondary Science Education at the City College of New York In addition, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She loves to paint, garden, read, practice yoga, go for long walks and spend summers with family in the South.
Shristi Karim is a doctoral student in Developmental Psychology at CUNY Graduate Center. She received her Honours Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Master of Education in Developmental Psychology and Education at the University of Toronto. She is interested in learning about socio-emotional development in second and third-generation immigrants, and the effects of intergenerational trauma on child development in immigrant communities. She spends most of her free time with her dog, reading, or playing video games.
Tania Camarillo Contreras
Tania Camarillo Contreras is a doctoral student in Developmental Psychology at CUNY Graduate Center. She recently received her BA in English and minoring in Psychology and Middle and High School education. She is interested in exploring the process of acculturation in the school settings. However, she also has interest in discovering how gender differences in the Latino community affects the development of the children as they grow into adults. In her free time she enjoys reading as well as writing poetry.
Anna Bennet is a doctoral candidate in the Developmental Psychology program at Steinhardt, NYU. She received her B.A. in Cultural Analysis and Women’s Studies from Gallatin, NYU and her M.A. in Psychology from GSAS, NYU. Anna uses mixed-methods to examine interpersonal processes of identity socialization, their variability, and link to short-, and long-term human development. Anna is currently involved in projects that proceed from a) quantitative methods to investigate variability in peer contexts across early childhood, and how they link to aspects of socioemotional, cognitive and identity development; b) qualitative coding and analyses of socialization-, and identity-related beliefs in mothers of young children.
Marina Piñeiro She is a graduate of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) with a B.S. in Psychology and received her M.A. in Clinical Psychology with a major in Neuropsychology. Her experience includes working at a psychiatric hospital where she oversaw children with developmental disorders diagnosis and their cognitive rehab. She collaborated on cross-cultural neuropsychology projects at Lundquist Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. She would like to collaborate in reimagining the cognitive skills that emerge during growth in those children who do not belong to the western infantile hegemonic model, especially among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. She believes that the decolonization of psychology will allow us to set up a children's developmental story to take them away from the perfect child hegemonic ideology, and so it will be possible to stop pathologizing the differences. Shortly, Marina is looking forward to pursuing a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology. She truly loves to observe trees and hug them.
Mai W. Zaru
Mai W. Zaru is a doctoral student in the Teaching and Learning department at Southern Methodist University, Texas. She received her B.A. in Special Education and M.A. in Reading Education from Brigham Young University and University of Florida, respectively. Her primary research interests revolve around using dialogic reading practices to support refugees and immigrants who have experienced childhood traumas. Mai is currently using qualitative methods to explore the home literacy practices and cultural identities of first and second generation immigrants in the U.S.
Anastasia Voron is a graduate student in Counseling in Mental Health and Wellness at NYU. She received her BA in Art History from Columbia University. As a researcher, she is interested in exploring concepts of self-efficacy and identity as they relate to external validation through existential and multicultural lenses. As a counselor-in-the-making, she plans to work with individuals and couples to work through obstacles and instill behavioral change toward an optimal and mindful life. In her free time, she enjoys biking, reading, and traveling with her husband.
Julie Scarfuto is a graduate of Brooklyn College with a B.S. in Psychology. Julie is interested in many areas concerning the neuropsychological development of infants and toddlers. Currently, she is working on a project transcribing interviews with elementary and high school teachers. In the near future, Julie is looking forward to attending medical school.
Michela Arlia is an Undergraduate student double majoring in Psychology and Theater. Her main interest in the field of Psychology is school and clinical psychology, and she hopes to blend this with her passion for theater and working with children. In the lab, she works on interview transcriptions concerning teacher’s race and pedagogy in the classroom as well as assisting in coding projects focused on parents’ perceptions of qualities that make a good friend for their adolescent children, as well as with studies pertaining to parent investment. When she isn’t in classes or the lab, you can find her teaching young children dance at a local Brooklyn dance studio. Her hobbies include reading, making new food dishes, and she is also an editor for the on-campus newspaper, the BC Vanguard.
Lena Nazaryan is a Masters student majoring in Art Education. She previously got her bachelors in Art & Design with a minor in Psychology. Lena is interested in the overlap between philosophy, psychology and sociology. She’s on track to become an educator, but aspires to do UX research with focuses on user behavior and products. In the lab she works on transcribing interviews regarding teachers’ race and pedagogies. Lena intends to combine her education and technology skills to enhance and improve the learning experience.
Esther Gonzalez is an undergraduate student majoring in Psychology (BA). Esther is interested in learning more about the effect early childhood experiences have on the way we interact with the world. In the lab, she works on transcribing semi-structured interview data for a study on teacher’s perspectives on race and pedagogy. She is planning on expanding her research experience in order to apply for a PhD program for Clinical Psychology and discover what research she is most passionate about.
Stella Mathew is a junior undergraduate student at Brooklyn College majoring in Psychology (BS) and minoring in Neuroscience and Health & Nutrition Sciences. She is interested in the long-term emotional and social effects of childhood experiences and how this differs across cultural groups. In her free time, Stella enjoys trying new cuisines, painting, and doing puzzles with friends. Stella hopes to attend nursing school after graduating.
Rosena Petit Homme
Rosena Petit Homme is an undergraduate student at Suffolk County Community College Where she is majoring in Psychology. She is currently a REU Undergraduate student at Brooklyn College where she first learned about the Culture and Child Development Lab. She has worked on the Race and Pedagogy study and the Brick City Research Project where she helps transcribe and code. Rosena Is interested in adolescent and child development, relationships and how it differs in different culture groups, gender identity and many more. She plans to transfer to Stony Brook University In the Fall of 2022 where she will receive her Bachelor's degree in Psychology in order to pursue a career as a School Psychologist. In her free time Rosena enjoys reading, writing short stories, baking and eating different cultural desserts, volunteering, taking nature hikes and many more.
Onyekachi Wendy Ibe
Onyekachi Wendy Ibe is an undergraduate student at CUNY Brooklyn College. Her major is health and nutrition sciences with a concentration in public health. She is interested in the body and how daily food decisions affect body functions, this includes the nervous system. Kachi has worked on various research projects such as computational biology: Sequencing the DNA for bacteria from soil extract using ubuntu/qiime computer program. She is also interested in the effects of parental ideologies on childhood experiences. Her long term career goal is to get into an M.D/PH.D. program in Newyork. Kachi goes to the gym whenever she can, she enjoys music and dance. She intends to join an aerial hoops circus class very soon. Kachi also enjoys good food and luxurious self care every once in a while.
Shifa Maqsood is an undergraduate student at Brooklyn College. She is majoring in Psychology B.S. She joined the Culture and Child Development Lab due to an interest in child development across South Asian immigrants in the United States. She hopes to pursue PhD to further research into teenage identity crises and address the underrepresentation of South Asian adolescents. She loves reading books and enjoys writing.
Aimen Cheema is an undergraduate student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Neuroscience. She joined the Culture and Child Development Lab to pursue her interest in the censorship of topics and the psychological impact that holds and in addition to gaining experience in research. She hopes to attend PA school after graduating. In her spare time Aimen likes to take on craft projects, the most recent one being making a rug from scratch. She also really enjoys growing houseplants, baking, and being outdoors.
Join our community!
Prospective Doctoral Students
Dr. Yana Kuchirko is accepting doctoral students through the Developmental Psychology and Basic and Applied Social Psychology programs at The Graduate Center. If you are interested in working with Dr. Kuchirko as a doctoral student, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. In your message, please include your CV/resume and a brief description of your background and research interests.
Information about The Graduate Center's Developmental Psychology training area can be found here: https://www.gc.cuny.edu/psychology/training-areas/developmental-psychology
Information about The Graduate Center's Basic and Applied Social Psychology training area can be found here: http://basp-cuny.squarespace.com
If you already have a BS/BA/MA and would like get hands-on experience in the lab as a research assistant, please contact Dr. Kuchirko at email@example.com. In your email, please include your CV/resume and a brief description of your background and research interests.
Brooklyn College Research Assistants
Undergraduate and Masters' students at Brooklyn College have the opportunity to gain research experience and write research theses while getting course credit! If you are enrolled in a program at BC and would like to learn more about 2000x and 5000x level undergraduate courses, and independent reading and thesis Masters' courses, please contact Dr. Kuchirko at firstname.lastname@example.org. In your email, please include your CV/resume and a brief description of your background and research interests.
Participate in our studies!
Parents' perspectives on what topics are appropriate for children at different ages
We are interested in learning about how parents of young children ages 3-8 think about the different topics they talk about with children. Click the link below to fill out a short survey!
Select peer reviewed articles available for download.
“Like Two Musketeers”: Socialization beliefs about toddler’s friendships among Dominican, Mexican, and African American mothers
Kuchirko, Y., Bennet, A., Nisanova, L., & De Sousa, J. (2022). “Like Two Musketeers”: Socialization beliefs about toddler’s friendships among Dominican, Mexican, and African American mothers. Social Development, 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1111/sode.12626
Talk the talk and walk
the walk: Diversity and
culture impact all of development – A commentary on Kidd and Garcia (2022)
Karasik, L. B., & Kuchirko, Y. A. (2022). Talk the talk and walk the walk: Diversity and culture impact all of development–A commentary on Kidd and Garcia (2022). First Language, 01427237221096508.
Comparison of U.S. and Tajik infants' time in containment devices
Karasik, L. B., Kuchirko, Y. A., Dodojonova, R. M., & Elison, J. T. (2022). Comparison of U.S. and Tajik infants' time in containment devices. Infant and Child Development, e2340. https://doi.org/ 10.1002/icd.2340
An intervention focused on maternal sensitivity enhanced mothers' verbal responsiveness to infants
Alvarenga, P., Kuchirko, Y., Cerezo, M. Á., de Mendonça Filho, E. J., Bakeman, R., & Tamis-LeMonda, C. S. (2021). An intervention focused on maternal sensitivity enhanced mothers' verbal responsiveness to infants. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 76, 101313. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2021.101313
The influence of siblings on ethnically diverse children’s gender typing across early development.
Kuchirko, Y., Bennet, A., Halim, M. L., Costanzo, P., & Ruble, D. (2021). The influence of siblings on ethnically diverse children’s gender typing across early development. Developmental Psychology, 57(5), 771–782. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0001173
Light-touch design enhancements can boost parent engagement in math activities
Kuchirko, Y. A., Coskun, L. Z., Duch, H., Castaner, M. M., & Gennetian, L. A. (2021). Light-touch design enhancements can boost parent engagement in math activities. Children and Youth Services Review, 128, 106133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2021.106133
The influence of center-based care on young children's gender development
Bennet, A., Kuchirko, Y., Halim, M. L., Costanzo, P. R., & Ruble, D. (2020). The influence of center-based care on young children's gender development. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 69, 101157. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2020.101157
On differences and deficits: A critique of the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the word gap.
Kuchirko, Y. (2019). On differences and deficits: A critique of the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the word gap. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 19(4), 533-562. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468798417747029
Do, say, learn: the functions of mothers’ speech to infants
Kuchirko, Y. A., Schatz, J. L., Fletcher, K. K., & Tamis-Lemonda, C. S. (2020). Do, say, learn: the functions of mothers’ speech to infants. Journal of child language, 47(1), 64-84. doi:10.1017/S0305000919000308
‘What happened next?’: Developmental changes in mothers’ questions to children
Kuchirko, Y., Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., Luo, R., & Liang, E. (2016). ‘What happened next?’: Developmental changes in mothers’ questions to children. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 16(4), 498-521. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468798415598822