Human Development and Family Studies

Heather Helms

Current Projects

National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families

Project Description: Dr. Julia Mendez Smith in Psychology, Dr. Danielle Crosby and Dr. Heather Helms, both in Human Development and Family Studies, are collaborating on a series of projects in early care and education. This multidisciplinary team is committed to conducting high quality, impactful research, as well as mentoring the next generation of researchers who are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate training at UNCG.


Project Description: Unidos is a study that examines marital well-being in sociocultural context in an understudied and rapidly growing segment of the United States population: low-income, Mexican-origin couples in the early years of parenthood. The focus of the proposed research is on how new parents’ relational resources moderate the link between sociocultural stressors and marital well-being during the early years of parenthood. Understanding how sociocultural stressors are linked to husbands’ and wives’ marital well-being (Aim 1), examining the implications of within-couple mismatches in spouses' sociocultural experiences and values for marital well-being (Aim 2), and identifying the types of relational resources and strategies that moderate those links (Aim 3) is a first step in identifying unique sociocultural strengths and vulnerabilities and their marital correlates. Identifying the conditions under which new parents of Mexican origin are likely to experience marital difficulties as well as the relational resources that strengthen or buffer their marriages will inform prevention and intervention efforts. Detailed data such as those collected in the proposed project are necessary to promote the development of culturally appropriate intervention strategies that are tailored to the individual needs and strengths of immigrant families from Mexico.

Principal Investigator: Heather Helms

Project Staff: Our project staff includes HDFS graduate students, bi-lingual undergraduate research assistants, and bi-lingual interviewers.

Project funding: HES Grant Incentive Program, 2006 Regular Faculty Grant, 2007 Agricultural Research Service Award

Project update: We finished interviewing parents in December 2008 and are now analyzing the data and writing our results. Thank you to the 250 parents (125 couples) who participated!

Project findings:

Preliminary findings from the first 25 couples were presented at UNCG's Office of Undergraduate Research Expo in 2009.

Rodriguez, Y. & Su, J. (2010). Environmental, attitudinal, and social context factors as predictors of immigrant Mexican wives’ personal and marital well-being. Roundtable presented at Quint State: The Southeastern Symposium on Child and Family Development, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA.

Rodriguez, Y., Su, J., & Helms, H. M. (2010). Sociocultural Context, Relationship Quality, and Gender: A First Glimpse at "His" and "Her" Experiences in Married and Cohabiting Couples of Mexican Origin in their Early Childrearing Years. Presented at the National Council on Family Relations Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Rodriguez, Y., Hengstebeck, N, & Helms, H. M. (2012). The Socioeconomic, Cultural, and Family Experiences of Mexican Immigrant Couples in North Carolina at the Advent of the Great Recession. Presented at the Graduate Research and Creativity Expo: Scholarship That Matters, UNC-Greensboro

Hengstebeck, N., Rodriguez, Y., Joo, Y. H., & Helms, H. M. (2012, February). The effects of spouses' gender-typed attitudes and wives' employment status on Mexican-origin couples' marital satisfaction. Roundtable presentation at the annual meeting of Quint State: The Southeastern Symposium on Child and Family Development, Blacksburg, VA.

Helms, H. M. Marital quality among Mexican-Origin husbands and wives: A Socio-ecological Approach, Invited Address presented in the Family gender dynamics: Parent child, marital, and sibling relationships Plenary Session at SRCD's 5th Gender Development Research Conference, San Francisco, CA, April 2012.

Hengstebeck, N., Rodriguez, Y., Helms, H. M., & Joo, Y. H., (2012, July). Links between spouses' gender-typed attitudes, wives' employment status, and marital satisfaction among Mexican-origin couples. Poster presentation at the meeting of the International Association for Relationship Research, Chicago, IL.

Rodriguez, Y., Hengstebeck, N., Helms, H. M., & Joo, Y. H. (2012, October). Links between marital quality and coparenting satisfaction as moderated by familism attitudes among Mexican immigrant couples. Presented at the National Council on Family Relations Annual Meeting, Phoenix, Arizona.

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