Mayra  Bamaca-Colbert 

photo of Mayra Bamaca-Colbert

Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Contact Information

311A Health & Human Development East
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park PA 16802


(fax) 814-863-7963

Research Interests

My research aims to provide a more accurate and complete account of the individual and contextual factors that are linked to the development and outcomes of ethnic minority and immigrant youth, with an emphasis on Latinos. Grounded in developmental, ecological, and culturally informed theoretical frameworks, my research focuses on the interplay among contextual factors (i.e., interpersonal, cultural, and place) in informing youth outcomes (e.g., mental health and substance use) across development (early-, middle-, late-adolescence).

My work pays particular attention to parenting and the parent-adolescent relationship (e.g., parent-adolescent conflict) and the conditions under these interpersonal factors contributes to youth outcomes, focusing on individual and contextual mediating and moderating processes as well as changes across development. I have examined the role that the parent-adolescent relationship and family-level acculturation processes have on Mexican-origin female adolescent depressive symptoms and timing of sexual initiation. I have also examined the interplay between parenting and neighborhood risk. I am also interested in the changing influence of parent-adolescent relationship factors as youth move across adolescence and beyond. Because youth’s social worlds expand during adolescence, some of my work has looked at adolescents’ experiences with non-family members such as peers, friends, and romantic partners and their role in Latino adolescent outcomes.

Because Latinos make sense of their lives at the intersection of their cultural experiences at home, school, and other contexts, I pay particular attention to the role of culture. My expertise in this area center on acculturation and enculturation processes at the intersection of adolescents and parents (i.e., acculturation and enculturation gaps) and the conditions under which parent-child cultural gaps are linked to family and adjustment outcomes. My current work in this area is looking at the role of the acculturation gaps across developmental stages (e.g., early vs. middle adolescence). I am collaborating with Drs. Congers and Robins at UC Davis in their ongoing NIDA- 10-year funded longitudinal study that is following over 600 Mexican-origin families since the target child was in 5th grade. With this data, I am currently examining latent classes of mother-child and father-child acculturation-enculturation gaps and their link to parent-child relationship and substance use from pre-adolescent to late-adolescence. Because Latinos are moving to new destinations, I am also collaborating with Dr. Dawn Witherspoon in the Psychology Department to explore the connections among family-level acculturation processes and place domains (e.g., neighborhoods) in an emerging Latino community in Pennsylvania (18% of population is Latino) to address questions at the interaction of parent-child acculturation gap, place-based domains, and adolescent behavioral patterns.


B.A., 2001, Psychology (Summa cum laude) Department of Psychology, California State University-Northridge
M.S., 2003, Human and Community Development, Department of Human and Community Development, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Ph.D., 2008, Family and Human Development, School of Social and Family Dynamics, Arizona State University


Texas State University, San Marcos Summer Predoctoral Fellowship (June-July 2007). Amount awarded for summer research support: $11,000.

National Institutes of Mental Health Dissertation Grant (R36MH077425) “Examining depressive symptoms among Latina adolescent girls.” 7/1/2006 – 10/31/2007. PI; Umana-Taylor (Co-PI). Total funding: $44,014

Arizona State University Graduate and Professional Student Association Research Grant (2006). Amount awarded to provide supplemental funding for dissertation research: Total Funding: $2,000.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (awarded 2001). Three year fellowship (06/01/2003 – 05/31/2006): $78,000 plus $31,500 on tuition expenses; Total funding: $109,500.

Pampered Chef Family Resilience Program “Resilience among immigrant families through the ethnic socialization of Latino adolescents.” Funding period: 06/01/2002 – 06/30/2004. Co-PI; PI: Umaña-Taylor. Amount awarded: $12,000 per year for 2 years; total funding: $24,000.

Pampered Chef Family Resilience Graduate Program Fellowship (08/15/2001 – 05/15/2003). Total Funding $20,000.

Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Minority Fellowship (awarded 2001). Three year fellowship (07/01/2001– 06/30/2003 & 08/01/2006 – 07/31/2007). $48,000 plus $15,000 on tuition expenses; total funding: $63,000.

American Psychological Association/Mental Health Research Training Fellowship (awarded 2001). Three years fellowship ($45,000), declined due to multiple funding.

National Institutes of Health Minority Access to Research Careers (NIH/MARC) Fellowship. Undergraduate research fellowship (06/01/1999 – 05/31/2001). Total funding: $24,000.

Professional Experience

2008 – Present Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University

2004-2008 Graduate Research Assistant, School of Social and Family Dynamics, Arizona State University

2005, 2007 Instructor, School of Social and Family Dynamics, Arizona State University

2001-2004 Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Human and Community Development, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

1999-2001 MARC/NIH Research Fellow, Department of Psychology
California State University-Northridge

2000-2001 Undergraduate Research Assistant, Department of Family of Environmental, Sciences, California State University-Northridge

Summer 2000 Undergraduate Research Assistant, College of Human Ecology The Ohio State University

Selected Publications

Tilghman-Osborne, E. M. & Bámaca-Colbert, M. Y., Whiterspoon, D., Wadsworth, M. E., & Hecht, M. (In press). Longitudinal associations of language brokering attitudes and parent-adolescent closeness in immigrant Latino families: sex and age as moderators. Journal of Early Adolescence.

Bámaca-Colbert, M. Y. & Greene, K. M., Killoren, S. E. & Noah, A. J. (2014). Contextual and developmental predictors of timing of sexual initiation among Mexican-origin females. Developmental Psychology, 50, 2353-2359. Doi:

Espinosa-Hernández, G., Bámaca-Colbert, M. Y., Vasilenko, S. A., & Mirzoeff, C. A. (2013). Timing of sexual behaviors among female adolescents of Mexican-origin: The role of cultural variables. Journal of Child Studies in Diverse Contexts, 3, 159-173.

Bámaca-Colbert, M. Y., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Espinosa-Hernández, G., & Brown, A. M. (2012). Behavioral autonomy age expectations among Mexican-origin mother-daughter dyads: An examination of within-group variability. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 691-700. Doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2011.10.005

Bámaca-Colbert, M. Y., Umaña-Taylor, A. J. & Gayles, J. G. (2012). A developmental-contextual model of depressive symptoms in Mexican-origin Female Adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 48, 406-421. Doi:10.1037/a0025666.

Bámaca-Colbert, M. Y., Gayles, J. G., & Lara, R. (2011). Family correlates of adjustment profiles in Mexican-origin female adolescents. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 33, 123-151.

Bámaca-Colbert, M. Y. Plunkett, S. W. & Espinosa-Hernández, G (2011). Cultural and interpersonal contexts in adolescent depression among Latina females. In N. Cabrera, F. Villarruel, & H. E. Fitzgerald, (Eds.), Latina and Latino Children’s Mental Health: Vol. 2: Prevention and Treatment (pp. 35-62). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Bámaca-Colbert, M. Y. & Gayles, J. G. (2010).  Variable-centered and person-centered approaches to studying Mexican-origin mother-daughter cultural orientation dissonance. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 1274-1292. Doi: 10.1007/s10964-009-9447-3.

Bámaca, M. Y., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Shin, N., & Alfaro, E. (2005). Latino adolescents’ perception of parenting behavior and self-esteem: Examining the role of neighborhood risk. Family Relations, 54, 612-632.

Bámaca, M. Y., & Umaña-Taylor, A. J. (2006). Testing a model of resistance to peer pressure among Mexican-origin adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35, 631-645.

Curriculum Vitae

.pdf icon Mayra Bamaca-Colbert vitae

Strategic Themes

  • Human Development
  • Contexts and Social Institutions