Drinking initiation and problematic drinking among Latino adolescents: explanations of the immigrant paradox

Guadalupe A Bacio, Vickie M Mays, Anna S Lau
Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 2013, 27 (1): 14-22
Studies indicate that U.S.-born Latino teens exhibit higher rates of alcohol use compared with their foreign-born counterparts. Different hypotheses have been advanced to explain the mechanisms underlying this immigrant paradox, including the erosion of protective cultural factors across generations and increased exposure to risky peer environments in the United States. The present study examined whether the immigrant paradox applies to drinking initiation and problematic drinking among Latino adolescents, and tested whether generational differences in family protective factors and peer risk factors might explain the immigrant paradox. A nationally representative sample of Latino teens (N = 2,482) of Cuban, Mexican, and Puerto Rican origin from 3 immigrant generations (21% first generation, 33% second generation, and 46% third and later generations) was obtained from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Logistic and negative binomial regression models indicated that early drinking initiation and problematic alcohol use were more prevalent among later-generation youth, supporting the immigrant paradox. Erosion of family closeness and increased association with substance-using peers mediated the relationship between generation and alcohol use patterns in this sample. Results provide support for culturally sensitive interventions that target peer perceptions of substance use and bolster protective family values among Latino adolescents.

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