Syracuse University Magazine

Jaipaul Roopnarine

Global Insights on Raising Children

College of Human Ecology professor Jaipaul Roopnarine calls himself a workaholic, but laughs when he says it. In fact, he practically sparkles when he talks about the collaborative work that takes him around the world researching cultural influences on child development and family dynamics. Born in Guyana, Roopnarine earned a doctoral degree in child development and education psychology at the University of Wisconsin, where he worked with Michael Lamb, a pioneer of fatherhood research. "From that time on, I have had a keen interest in how families develop in various cultures," says Roopnarine, who is also a faculty affiliate with the Maxwell School's South Asia Program and teaches in the inclusive early childhood special education program at the School of Education and College of Human Ecology. "My work is very international and happens in many different parts of the world-Malaysia, Taiwan, India, Brazil. The world is our laboratory today."

In his new role as the Jack Reilly Professor of Child and Family Studies and director of the Jack Reilly Institute of Early Childhood and Provider Education, Roopnarine seeks to achieve a global understanding of child development and safety and to enhance training for early childhood professionals. "This extremely kind act of giving and caring by the Reillys reflects their deep commitment to advancing the welfare, safety, and education of young children in diverse cultural communities," says Roopnarine, who came to SU in 1984. "I am honored and humbled by this endowed professorship, and grateful to them and to the University."

Among the Reilly institute's current projects is a collaboration with the University of the West Indies, where Roopnarine was a Fulbright Scholar in spring 2008. This national study of 1,500 households, funded by the Ministry of Education in Trinidad and Tobago, examines parenting styles and beliefs about development and early education of children, ages 3 to 5. Another project joins with the University of Cambridge in observing infants with their parents and other caregivers in Indo-Caribbean and African-Caribbean immigrant families in the New York City area as well as in foraging societies in Central Africa. "The purpose is to unpack the cultural basis of early socialization by looking at issues dealing with sensitivity, holding and carrying practices, feeding, sleep cycles, and physical and verbal function," Roopnarine says. "We are looking at behaviors that are the seeds to early personality development and contribute to the development of the parent-child bond."  

A father of four who enjoys playing cricket and dominoes and reading Caribbean and African literature, Roopnarine has written extensively on childhood development and early education, including two books that are used in university classrooms around the world, and has served on editorial boards of a number of journals in developmental psychology and early childhood education. He has been awarded several grants by the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development. He also assisted in revising the national early childhood curriculum for the government of Guyana, and serves as an advisor to the Roving Caregivers Program in several Caribbean countries. "We are trying to intervene with early childhood parenting practices that help stave off the pernicious effects of poverty and harsh parenting," Roopnarine says. —Amy Speach

Jack Reilly Professorship in Child and Family Studies


Jaipaul Roopnarine, Department of Child and Family Studies, College of Human Ecology


The professorship was created by John D. Reilly III ’69, G’70 and his wife, Patricia, in memory of their infant son, Jack, who died in a fire at a licensed daycare facility in 1989. As part of their commitment to the college, they also established the Jack Reilly Institute of Early Childhood and Provider Education and the Jack Reilly Distinguished Lecture Series in Infant and Toddler Caregiving.