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Demographic shifts in the U.S. population require developmental researchers to increase their attention to cultural diversity. Conceptual models that incorporate culturally relevant variables and focus on normative and positive development are needed to produce a more balanced understanding of Latino youth development.
The presence of Spanish-speaking people and their descendents in what are now parts of the United States of America dates back to the early sixteenth century. Despite this presence, Latino families and their children have been inadequately— and sometimes inaccurately—represented in the developmental literature. (In this chapter, the term Latino is used to refer to both male and female persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Central or South American origin or descent, regardless of race; Day, 1996.) It is our belief that to remedy this situation developmental scholars must do three things. First, explicit attention must be paid to cultural diversity between and within subgroups of Latino youth. Second, there is a need for research on normative and positive development in this population. Third, developmental models must meaningfully incorporate culturally relevant factors. In this essay, we elaborate on each of these suggestions and describe an integrated model we are using to guide our work on Latino youth development.