ASU professor co-authors research on how immigration policy affects Latino adolescents

March 23, 2020

Arizona State University Professor Rebecca White recently co-authored a study on the negative impact of recent immigration policy changes on Latino adolescents dealing with family separation due to the detention or deportation of a family member. 

In the study, 547 Latino adolescents were surveyed from a community just outside of Atlanta. A quarter of those teens indicated that at least one of their family members had been detained or deported in the past year. Further, family member detention or deportation in the past year predicted increased chance of suicidal ideation, early alcohol use and/or mental and behavioral health problems. The study was published by JAMA Pediatrics and funded by the National Institute of Health. Picture of American flag behind barbed wire. Image by Barbara Rosner from Pixabay

“Our study offers the first direct scientific evidence indicating that current U.S. immigration policies might contribute to serious mental and behavioral health risks for Latino/a youth,” said lead author Kathleen Roche, associate professor at George Washington University.

White, an associate professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, was involved in this collaborative research because of her strong research background working with Latino families and communities. In particular, she has studied how adolescent development unfolds in family, school and neighborhood contexts, and relative to broader national contexts related to immigration policy. White and Roche have co-authored past research on how context shapes adolescent development and one of their prior collaborations examined how the contemporary political context, in particular, is creating stress for parents in Latino families.

Profile picture of Rebecca White

Associate Professor Rebecca White

White says one of the important aspects of this study to bear in mind is that the overwhelming majority of adolescents experiencing mental and behavioral health issues associated with detention and deportation of family members are U.S. citizens. 

“Even if you are an American citizen, deportation or detention of a family member is harmful for you,” White said.

Asked what the findings should lead to, White expressed hope that it will lead to a change in U.S. immigration policy.

“If what is causal here is the policy, then we would like to see the policy change,” White said. “In light of the policy not changing, or the status quo maintaining, then we really need to think about how to support these teens to deal with the challenges of deportation and detention of a family member.”

White says one of the benefits of this study and some of her previous work has been to equip folks on the frontline of the immigration battle with the scientific evidence they need to support immigrant families affected by contemporary immigration policy.

"There are all kinds of important tools we can use to understand how family separations affect Latino/a adolescents. For example, we can learn by listening to individuals’ stories. We can learn through high-quality journalism. We can learn from the front-line organizations providing legal and social services to affected families. In this JAMA Pediatrics paper, we relied on the scientific method to document the impacts of family member detention or deportation on the mental and behavioral health of Latino/a adolescents. That is the contribution we, as scientists, can make.”

Read the full study

Article by Wesley Jackson

John Keeney

Media Relations Coordinator, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics


From the fishing boat to the psychology lab

ASU senior studies situational drinking behavior

March 23, 2020

During a high school psychology class, Arizona State University student Shane Marohnic remembers watching instructional videos from Doug Kenrick, President’s Professor in the Department of Psychology. Marohnic, a senior in the psychology department, now works as a research assistant in Kenrick’s lab where he is instrumental in keeping daily lab operations running smoothly.

“Shane is a great student. He took my graduate seminar, even though he’s still an undergraduate, and really seems to take great pleasure in learning and expanding his horizons. He’s also an incredibly pleasant guy,” Kenrick said. “Given all of his personal and intellectual characteristics, we made him our first assistant lab manager last year.” Shane Marohnic Shane Marohnic Download Full Image

Marohnic credits his research work ethic at ASU to a summer spent working as a lot tracker at a fishing plant in Valdez, Alaska. The 16-hour workdays and hands-on learning, from grading and gutting fish to packing and shipping logistics, led him to appreciate hard work.

He had always been a bit of an adventurer and found himself on his own version of “Into the Wild.” It was unlike anything he had ever done before, so he jumped at the chance for some personal discovery.

“It was the end of my freshman year and I wanted to try something new and exciting, and I thought, 'Why not?'” Marohnic said.

“I really wasn’t expecting work in the fishing industry to mirror the research environment, but it ended up being a good introduction to why each step is important in research,” Marohnic said. “It was an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything — even if everything I owned smelled like fish by the end of it.”

Lots of Marohnic’s family studied psychology in college, and he always knew he would end up in a similar path.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the way we act and the reasons behind it. Everyone thinks about these broad questions, but few actually take the time to study them,” Marohnic said. “I’ve always wanted to know things like, why is this person being ostracized from the group, or why is this person prone to drinking and this one isn’t?”

His sense of adventure is mirrored in his passion for new discovery in research.

In addition to Kenrick’s lab, Marohnic also works in the Behavioral Alcohol Research for Clinical Advancement (BARCA) lab, led by ASU’s Will Corbin, associate professor of psychology and director of clinical training.

Related: Where and with whom you drink matters

Marohnic wants to pursue his doctorate in clinical psychology and is particularly interested in how impulsivity plays into decision making, specifically around alcohol. In Corbin’s BARCA lab, he is studying situational factors that alter drinking behavior like environmental stimulation — such as in tailgates or parties. Additionally, he is investigating the phenomena of “positive urgency,” or the ill-advised behavior that is motivated during extreme positive moods, and how it may be associated with heavier drinking.   

“In the research lab, Shane is always up for a new challenge. From his first day in the lab, he has been one of the first to volunteer to take on a new task, even if he doesn’t have prior experience with that task,” said Corbin. “He has also shown tremendous intellectual curiosity, quickly getting involved in developing his own ideas and pursuing independent research projects. His goal is to have a manuscript ready for submission by early fall and I have no doubt that he will achieve that goal.”

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology