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 centers around adolescent development and adjustment among ethnic minority youth, with an emphasis on Latino adolescents living in the U.S. Grounded in ecological, developmental, and family systems theories, I have developed a line of research that seeks to better understand the processes by which environmental, cultural, and relational factors interact and contribute to Latino adolescents’ development and adjustment.

Central to my work is to examine the role that interpersonal factors have in informing Latino youth development and adjustment. My work in this area has for the most part centered on examining the role of parents. For instance, I have examined the role that parent-adolescent relationship factors and acculturation processes within the family have on Mexican-origin female adolescent depressive symptomatology. I am also interested in understanding the changes that the parent-adolescent relationships undergo during early and middle adolescence as a result of normative developmental processes such as autonomy and dating. Finally, because youth’s social worlds expand during adolescence, I am beginning to explore in more depth the experiences of Latino adolescents with non-family members such as peers, friends, and romantic partners and the contribution of these experiences to their development and adjustment.

I recently completed a longitudinal study with a sample of Latina adolescent females of Mexican-origin in which we asked adolescents questions related to parents, friends, and romantic experiences. My goal and that of my colleague (Dr. Graciela Espinosa-Hernández) is to have a better understanding of the interconnections among developmental (e.g., autonomy issues) interpersonal (parent-adolescent relationship; relationship with friends) and cultural factors (e.g., familism and acculturation) in explaining Mexican-origin female adjustment and sexual behaviors. In addition, I am collaborating on a research project that is collecting self-report data from Latino and African American adolescents and their fathers in California, Oklahoma, and North Carolina. The goal of this project is to examine the links between father/father figure personal problems, parenting behaviors, peer factors, school climate, and community qualities in explaining externalizing and internalizing behaviors in Latino and African American adolescent boys and girls.


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

Bámaca-Colbert, M. Y., Umaña-Taylor, A. J. & Gayles, J. G. (in press). A developmental-contextual model of depressive symptoms in Mexican-origin Female Adolescents. Developmental Psychology.

Benhke, A., Plunkett, S. W., Sands, T., & Bámaca-Colbert, M. Y. (in press). Latino adolescents’ perceptions of discrimination, neighborhood risk, and parenting on their own feelings of self-esteem and depression. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology.

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.

Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Alfaro, E., Bámaca, M. Y., Guimond, A. B. (2009). The central role of familial ethnic socialization in latino adolescents’ cultural orientation. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 61-79.

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.

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.

Plunkett, S. W., & Bámaca-Gómez, M. Y. (2003). The relationship between parenting, acculturation, and adolescent academics in Mexican-origin immigrant families in Los Angeles. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 25, 222-239.

Umaña-Taylor, A. J., & Bámaca, M. Y. (2004). Conducting focus groups with Latino families: Lessons from the field. Family Relations, 53, 3, 261-272.

Curriculum Vitae

.pdf icon Mayra Bamaca-Colbert vitae

Strategic Themes

  • Human Development
  • Contexts and Social Institutions