Patricia Cabral's research interests are centered on health-risk behaviors among adolescents and young adults, and how they contribute to differences in health outcomes across racial/ethnic groups.
Cabral, assistant professor of psychology, has B.A. and master’s degrees from Cal State Northridge. She recently completed her Ph.D. in psychological sciences at UC Merced.
When did you take an interest in psychology?
Cabral: Like many other students, I took an introductory psychology course in high school. The teacher made every class fascinating. Taking that class made me realize that I wanted to major in psychology once I was in college. But it wasn’t until I took research methods in college that I started to really understand how I could fit into psychology and how fun it can be. Those two classes started my passion for the field.
What attracted you to Occidental?
Cabral: The mentorship I received as a college student played a big role in my life and academic development. Being a first-generation college student, the mentorship I received from my professors was pivotal to my academic and personal development. In fact, I still keep in touch with many of these professors. The mentorship I received as a student made me passionate about mentoring college students, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds because I learned how important it could be to them as it was for me. When I first visited Oxy, one of the first things that made me feel connected to the values of the campus was the importance that was placed on mentorship. I knew that I wanted to be a part of the wonderful mentorship that the faculty were already providing students.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Cabral: The students, of course! Those moments when you are lecturing, and you see the spark of interest or surprise on their faces are some of my favorite teaching moments. I especially enjoy when students will come up to me after class to talk further about the topic, or when they stop by my office hours to ask for guidance.
Your most recent research examines “Generational status, familismo, and socio- emotional competence in the link between neighborhood quality and risk behaviors for Latina adolescents.” Can you summarize your findings?
Cabral: We examined associations of early parental (monitoring, nurturance, and involvement) and peer (friendship quality, social interaction, and peer norms) influences on subsequent sex initiation among Latina/o youth and how these associations differed across migration generational status. We found that, more acculturated Latina girls (i.e., third-generation) were more than twice as likely to initiate sex by 10th grade in comparison to Latinas of first- and second-generation. Parental monitoring and friendship quality predicted sex initiation among Latinas while parental involvement and social interactions were significant among Latino boys. Also, both boys and girls were more likely to initiate sex by 10th grade when they perceived their friends to have initiated sex; this is especially true among more acculturated Latina girls.
Outside of work, what do you like to spend your time doing?
Cabral: I enjoy reading fiction, hiking, and going to concerts. But, when I have the time, my favorite thing to do is to travel. I’ve been to about 10 different countries (and more cities than I can remember). My favorite passport stamp is from Egypt when I got to see the pyramids. I still have many more countries to cross off my list.