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20. May 2019

‘Life as Research Scientist’: Letitia Kotila, Family Scientist

Letitia Kotila is currently a Doctoral Candidate in Human Development and Family Science at The Ohio State University. Her research area focuses on parental involvement, coparenting, and couple relationships. Letitia has three children (ages 11, 9, and 2) with her husband. She enjoys playing sports, riding bikes, and watching movies with her family. She also enjoys cooking and baking. Often Letitia spends time on the weekends testing new recipes.

As part of our series on ‘life as research scientist’ we requested Letitia to answer few questions, and here is what we learned from her. So let’s join to hear from Family Scientist Letitia Kotila:

Q. Let us start with your research topic. What is your research area? Will you please tell us a bit more on this? What did you find?

Letitia Kotila: This particular study broadly focuses on predictors of prenatal parenting behaviors, such as finding out the sex of an unborn child. This is the first study we know of in the U.S. to look at psychological predictors of finding out fetal sex, and we focused on three particular characteristics.  We looked at whether the mothers’ basic personality traits, her perfectionistic orientation toward parenting (i.e., setting unrealistically high standards), and her gender role ideologies (i.e., women and men should have separate roles) influenced whether or not she found out the sex of her child pre-birth. We found that mothers who were more open to experience were much less likely than other mothers to know the sex of their child, and that parenting perfectionists were slightly more likely than other mothers to know the sex.  We also found that when mothers held a less traditional gender role ideology and were conscientious, or able to set clear standards and follow through with them, they were much less likely than other mothers to know the sex of their unborn child.

 Q. Why is this important? (i.e. why should the general public care about this?)

Letitia Kotila: ‘This study is important because it provides us with a first look at some of the underlying characteristics of mothers that may influence their preparations for and enactment of parenting roles.’

Letitia Kotila: ‘This study is important because it provides us with a first look at some of the underlying characteristics of mothers that may influence their preparations for and enactment of parenting roles.’

Letitia Kotila: This study is important because it provides us with a first look at some of the underlying characteristics of mothers that may influence their preparations for and enactment of parenting roles.  We know that mothers develop sex-specific mental representations of children during pregnancy, and it is likely that these representations set foundations for mothers’ future interactions with her child.  It may be that women who discover the sex of their child earlier are more likely to begin preparing for a sex-specific child in ways such as only purchasing sex-congruent clothing or toys. It may also be that these mothers begin thinking about children’s capabilities in sex-specific ways earlier than other mothers, and this may set rigid expectations or limit opportunities for children, even if inadvertently.  What is most important is these limitations are not just for girls. Boys may be limited as well – most mothers still do not regularly encourage their boys to play with dolls, and differential socialization practices such as this likely contribute to stigmatization of male nurses or childcare providers, for instance.

This research is most important because it opens to the door to a new line of research that focuses on parenting preparations and what those preparations mean for the parental unit and the developing child. There are a myriad of un-posed and un-answered questions just waiting to be tackled. This truly is exciting!

Q.  Is this truly new information or does it confirm what other researchers have found?

Letitia Kotila: This is new information, although the findings are not necessarily surprising.

Q. How did you land here? Was it your goal?

Letitia Kotila: This study actually was a pursuit that is somewhat outside of what I normally study. My advisor was pregnant and I had recently had a third child, and so our conversations were often centered around these ways to prepare for parenting. So, this particular study was more or less the pursuit of an interesting question, which turned out to have never been answered!

Q. How many hours a day you spend for study. How you arrange other side of your life like social activities so to say?

Letitia Kotila: Because I was not heavily involved in data collection for this study, and at the time we pursued this question the data was already prepared, I did not spend too much time on this research. If I had to guess I would say that for a period of a few months I was heavily involved in data analysis, writing, and presenting the material at a College conference. Because these activities are factored in to my normal time and were more flexible than primary data collection activities I didn’t need to adjust my typical day. For the most part by job is very flexible and I am able to be home after school with my children and work from home when needed.

Q. Are you satisfied with your results? What about your publications?

Letitia Kotila: Yes, I am satisfied with these results, although I must admit that I was hoping for a few more significant associations! In all I am very satisfied with my publications. I have nine to date, in journals such as Personality and Individual Differences (where this article appeared), Journal of Family Psychology, Family Relations, Journal of Family Issues and Fathering. I have also submitted or am preparing a total of 11 other manuscripts that I hope will appear in top family, demography, sociology, and psychology journals. I have enjoyed presenting findings from most of these studies at local, national, and international conferences and am excited to see where my research will take me next! 

Q. If you would not be at your current profession, what other options would you consider for your career?

Letitia Kotila: I have a really hard time answering this question because there are too many things I would really want to do, and this seems to change from moment to moment! Right now I think it would be fun to be an investigative journalist, or even an anchor on a show like “Today”. Although I must admit – I’m not sure an exciting career in the public eye is worth the sacrifice of privacy.

I also would find it exciting to own my own business. I’ve thought of a home-based bakery more than a few times!

Thank You 

*Download a pdf version of the interview

More on Letitia Kotila’s research

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