Acculturation, Family Context, and Mexican Origin Youth Substance Use Risk Across Time
Cruz, Rick A.
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Latino youth, and Mexican-origin youth in particular risk, may be at higher risk for early substance use initiation. Given that early initiation is related to greater likelihood of later substance use problems, understanding risk and protective pathways for this early use is of great importance. Acculturation (i.e., American cultural identity) has been identified as a cultural risk factor for adolescent substance use for Mexican-origin youth. On the other hand, increased orientation to heritage Mexican culture appears to play a protective role in the development of substance use. Theory has suggested that acculturation and enculturation are processes that dynamically change over time, yet there is a dearth of longitudinal research on cultural orientation development. Moreover, there is limited research examining whether youth substance use changes as a function of changes in cultural orientation. One mechanism that appears to partially explain the link between youth cultural orientation and substance use is disrupted family dynamics (e.g., Samaniego & Gonzales, 1999; Szapocznik & Kurtines, 1993). However, there is a dearth of longitudinal studies examining the pathway that links cultural change with youth substance use via family dysfunction. The specific aims of this dissertation were to examine and characterize longitudinal changes in cultural orientation over time, examine links between cultural orientation level and change with substance use outcomes and to test whether family processes may mediate the links between cultural orientation change and negative outcomes. The study used data from 674 Mexican-origin youth and their parents across five (approximately) yearly observations between ages 10 - 15. This study used measures of youth report of cultural orientation, substance use, and family dynamics up to age 15. I used latent growth modeling (LGM) in a Structural Equation Modeling framework, applied categorical and count data modeling to appropriately specify substance use outcomes, and examined mediation in a (LGM) context. Results suggested that cultural orientation change is a dynamic process that varies across individuals, and patterns of change depend on the particular cultural domain being examined. Although the results suggested that there were some links between level and change in cultural orientation with substance use outcomes, these findings were less robust in the current study potentially due to missing data characteristics. Still, results demonstrated that family relationship characteristics represent a robust mechanism that indirectly link initial levels and change in cultural orientation with substance use outcomes. I interpret my findings within a cultural risk and resilience framework, and integrate with prior research to inform the acculturation literature.
- Psychology