Gabriela Chavira

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(818) 677-2827
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  • Ph.D. 2005, University of California, Santa Cruz (Developmental Psychology)
  • B.A. 1994, California State Universtiy, Northridge (Psychology and Mexican American Studies)

Specialty Areas: Developmental Psychology, Family Involvement, Identity development, Academic Achievement

Gabriela Chavira is a professor of psychology at California State University Northridge. Her program of research is transdiciplinary - psychology, anthropology and education- and examines contextual factors contributing to the academic success and psychological well-being of primarily immigrant Latino adolescents. She uses mixed-methodologies, combining semi-structured interviews, ethnography, and self-report surveys to better understand how families can help their youth transition successfully to adulthood. Beginning in 2016, with the knowledge gained over the past decade, her research team has been providing workshops on family involvement and college knowledge to Spanish-speaking families and their adolescents at MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity) in Pacoima, CA.

Dr. Chavira is a principal investigator and Student Training Core Director of the National Institutes of Health’s undergraduate training program Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Promoting Opportunities for Diversity in Education and Research (PODER). As the Student training core director, she uses Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a framework to engage diverse students, who would traditionally not have participated in biomedical research, to major in biological, social, and health sciences in order to increase the biomedical research workforce.

Dr. Chavira received the Don Dorsey Excellence in Mentoring Award in 2013.


Courses Taught

PSY 150 – Introduction to Psychology

  • PSY 313 – Developmental Psychology
  • PSY 361 – Adolescence
  • PSY 475CC/S – Advanced Inquiry in Developmental Psychology and Seminar - Cultural Contexts of Development
  • PSY 512 – Seminar in Developmental Psychology – Developmental Theories
  • PSY 594HC – Tutorial in Psychology: Teaching of Psychology

Selected Publications 

Chavira, G., Cooper, C. R., & Vasquez-Salgado, Y. E. (October, 2016). Pathways to Achievement: Career and Educational Aspirations and Expectations of Latina/o Immigrant Parents and Early Adolescents. Journal of Latinos and Education, 15(4). doi: 10.1080/15348431.2015.1131693

Vasquez, Y. E., & Chavira, G. (2014). The transition from middle school to high school among Latino youth. Journal of Hispanic Behavioral Sciences, 36(1), 79-94. doi: 10.1177/0739986313513718

Cooper, C. R., Cooper, R. G., Azmitia, M., Chavira, G., & Gullatt (2011). Chapter 4: Capital, alienation or challenge? What matters for pathways to college. In C. R. Cooper (Ed.) Bridging Multiple Worlds, (pp. 43 – 53). New York: Oxford University Press.

Cooper, C. R., Chavira, G., & Mena, D. (2011). Chapter 5: Mismatches, brokers, and gatekeepers: How youth bridge their cultural worlds. In C. R. Cooper (Ed.), Bridging Multiple Worlds (pp. 57 – 70). New York: Oxford University Press.

Cooper, C. R., Dominguez, E., Azmitia, M, Holt, E., Mena, D, & Chavira, G. (2010). Case 12: Staying on the path toward college. In H. B. Weiss, H. Kreider, M. E. Lopez, & C. M. Chatman-Nelson (Eds.), Preparing Educators to Engage Families: Case Studies Using an Ecological Systems Framework, (pp. 134 - 141). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Cooper, C. R., Chavira, G., & Mena, D. D. (2005). From Pipelines to Partnerships:  A Research Synthesis on How Diverse Families, Schools, and Communities Support Children’s Pathways through School. Journal for Students Placed at Risk. 10, 407–430.

Cooper, C. R., Chavira, G., Mena, D., Mikolyski, D., & Dominguez, E. (2004, January) Bridging multiple worlds: Building pathways from childhood to college. Available from

Research and Interests

All of my research projects focus on successful transitions to adulthood for immigrant and ethnic minority youth.

Developing College Awareness and a College-Going Identity in Latina/o Youth (new)

This new research project is currently being developed with the help of my two graduate researchers, Griselda Martinez and Maria de Jesus Cisneros. For this project, we developed a six-workshop series for Latina/o parents and their adolescent youth (early adolescence through late adolescence) with the aim to a) increase their college knowledge, b) provide instrumental support and guidance navigating the college application process, and c) increase the number of Latina/o youth who apply for and enroll in four-year colleges and universities.

Mentoring Matters Research Study (ongoing)

Psychological Functioning and Cultural Discontinuity Project (ongoing)