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Natasha Cabrera Ph.D.

Natasha Cabrera, Ph.D.

Director, Family Involvement Laboratory

Associate Professor

Human Development
3304 Benjamin Building
College Park , Maryland 20742
Office Phone: 301-405-2827


  1. Ph.D. Educational Psychology, University of Denver, Colorado, 1994
  2. M.A Psychology and Education, University of Toronto, Canada, 1989
  3. B.Sc. Psychology, University of Toronto, Canada, 1985


Recent Scientific Accomplishments

Cabrera's research interests include fatherhood, childcare, Head Start, policy, the normative development of low-income children and the interface between policy and research. Specifically, her research focuses on the influences that fathers and mothers make on their childrenís developmental trajectories, particularly in low income populations. Cabrera has studied fathers for the last 5 years. In her previous position with NICHD, she developed a major initiative called Developing a Daddy Survey (DADS), which coordinated measures of father involvement across major studies in the field, provided a set of measures for others to use, and, with Child Trends, is working on the psychometric characteristics of these measures. In addition, she has been involved in conceptualizing, designing, and measuring father involvement in the national evaluation of Early Head Start for the last 3 years. She has written numerous papers on policy, methodology, and the impact of father involvement on child development. She is co-editor with Catherine Tamis-LeMonda of the Handbook of Father Involvement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (2002). She is co-editor with Elizabeth Peters and Robert Hutchens of From Welfare to Child Care: What Happens to Young Children When Single Mothers Exchange Welfare for Work. She also coauthored (with C. Tamis-LeMonda, M. Lamb, and R. Bradley) a review of the fatherhood literature in a 2000 Special Issue of Child Development. In contrast to popular belief, Cabrera found that the majority of Early Head Start children have involved fathers, yet they still face many barriers including unemployment, marital conflict, substance and alcohol abuse, and programs unprepared to serve fathers. Cabrera also found that fathers with more human and economic resources are more likely to be engaged with their children than fathers with fewer resources. She and her colleagues are now examining whether early parental involvement predicts later involvement and what factors predict father involvement. She also found that fathers who are responsive and communicative with their children have children who scored within the normal range on measures of cognitive development, although the effects can be domain- and time-specific. She also found that differences in parenting in a national sample of Latino babies and their fathers were mainly accounted for by levels of acculturation. Mexican babies live in households that are more disadvantaged and have parents who are less acculturated than other Latinos in the U.S.

Funded Research

Cabrera is a co-investigator with Sandra Hofferth on a grant, which is part of a P01, to study intergenerational effects of father involvement. Cabrera also has several pending grants with NIH and the W.T. Grant Foundation for further research on father involvement and its relation to family and children outcomes.

Future Plans

Cabreraís research interests will continue to include the nature, frequency, and type of father involvement among low-income families. Her on-going work examines the associations between human and economic resources, social support, maternal well-being and their joint effect on the quality of fathers?involvement and interaction with their children, and in turn, the effects of this involvement on their outcomes. Because her interest is in the developmental aspects of fathering, she will examine the effects of father involvement as children transition from early childhood settings to elementary school. She plans to look at the involvement that parents, with a special attention to fathers, have with their childrenís school and their peers. She will also continue her work on understanding ethnic and racial differences among parents and their effects on child outcomes, by developing a project that looks at the change over time in father involvement among Latino fathers and the impact on childrenís outcomes.


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