My research extends across nations, sociodemographic ecologies, and religious belief systems to investigate how culture structures the life course, and how youth and families psychologically negotiate cultural change. In my primary line of work, I examine the developmental implications of globalization; in my secondary line of work, I examine the cultural socialization of moral development.
Developmental Implications of Globalization
In this line of work, I engage in longitudinal ethnography in northern Thailand. Through interviews and participant observation with adolescents and parents residing in urban and rural communities, I examine the implications of globalization on the practices and perspectives of youth and parents. This work draws from and builds upon Patricia Greenfield's theory of social change and human development.
My research in Thailand began in 2012, thanks to the Society for Research on Adolescence's Innovative Small Grant; data collection, supported by the Society for Research in Child Development's Early Career Grant, will take place again in 2020.
My work addresses rural and urban-dwelling adolescents' dietary and linguistic practices. In a recent article published in Child Development, I utilize a qualitative approach to show how urban-dwelling adolescents alternate between local and global practices based on interactional partner. This alternation in turn assists them in navigating and reshaping hierarchies encountered in everyday relationships.
I also employ qualitative and quantitative methods to examine rural and urban adolescent religious practices. In one study, students in my HD&C lab and I found distinct orientations toward religious practices across contexts of globalization. This paper, published in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, suggests movement from an interdependent to a more independent orientation toward religion as communities become increasingly urbanized, high in technology, and shift toward a commerce-based economy.
Students in my HD&C lab and I have two ongoing projects on adolescent and parent media practices. A recent qualitative study (currently under revise-and-resubmit) shows how adolescents act as cultural brokers for their parents into a media-driven world, which serves to renegotiate power dynamics and age-based hierarchies. A mixed methods study (in preparation) shows that media serves distinct functions, and carries distinct perceived benefits and burdens, for Thai adolescents and parents.
Beliefs about morality and values have long been a core research interest of mine. This work has addressed dyadic conceptions of the moral self across variously globalized communities (published in Journal of Adolescent Research) and the de- and re-contextualization of divinity-based moral reasoning among urban-dwelling adolescents (published in New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development). I also have an ongoing project on folk theories of cultural values and cultural value change (in preparation).
I also study the construction and negotiation of self and identity. This is addressed in my work on dietary and linguistic practices (i.e., self as increasingly differentiated in globalized Thai settings) and conceptions of morality and divinity (i.e., the self as an autonomous agent vs. as fundamentally interconnected with others). I have also written about cultural identity in an era of modern globalization with Lene Jensen and Jeffrey Arnett (published in the Handbook of Identity Theory and Research).
In an ongoing research project, I am investigating adolescents' visions of the future self and reflections on the former self. In one study (in preparation), I am examining the unique roles that local and global cultural values serve in urban Thai adolescents' envisioned futures; in another, I am examining indigenous definitions of success among rural and urban-dwelling adolescents (in preparation). This work points both to continuity and change in beliefs about success and the future self. In an upcoming project, I will examine young adults' reactions to and reflections upon the former self via an experimental auditory 'encounter.'
Cultural Socialization of Moral Development
In this line of work, I investigate how divinity-based moral reasoning is shaped by religious culture, and chart cultural pathways of moral development. This work is grounded in Lene Jensen's cultural-developmental approach, which synthesizes decades of developmental and cultural research on moral reasoning and conceptions of self.
In one project, I and my co-author quantitatively examined the moral reasoning of U.S. evangelical and mainline Protestant children, adolescents, and adults. Our study, published in Child Development, found that differences between religious cultures become more pronounced with age. In a follow-up qualitative study, I and my co-author situate these cultural and developmental differences in moral reasoning alongside distinct religious worldviews. This study, published in Culture & Psychology, proposes evangelical and mainline life course narratives that drive distinct developmental conceptions of the moral self.
I have also written multiple book chapters and web-based publications on the intersection of morality and culture (e.g., The Oxford Handbook of Moral Development, Society for Research on Adolescence Online News, Oxford Bibliographies).