Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

42P Ethnic Identification, Parental Monitoring, and Substance Use In Mexican American Adolescents

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Julie Nagoshi, MSW, Phd Student, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Flavio Marsiglia, PhD, Director, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Monica Parsai, PhD, Assistant Director of Family Intervention Research, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Felipe Gonzalez Castro, PhD, Professor, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Background and Purpose: Acculturation, as measured by language use, years in the U.S., and adoption of U.S. mainstream cultural practices, has been found to be associated with greater substance use in Mexican American adolescents. Acculturation, however, is multifaceted, and Mexican American adolescents' identification with their native culture may act as a protective factor against problem behaviors. Understanding the effects of acculturation on problem behaviors, in turn, requires an understanding of how acculturation impacts parent-child relationships. Discrepancies in cultural values between parents and youth, where youth are often more acculturated than their parents, can weaken parental control by increasing values conflicts within families and allowing for a greater influence of peers on the youth. The purpose of this study was to assess the combined effects of ethnic identification and perceived parental monitoring on the substance use of a sample of Mexican American adolescents.

Methods: The sample consisted of 162 male and 192 female Mexican heritage 7th grade adolescents recruited from schools in predominantly Latino neighborhoods in Phoenix, Arizona, for a study of a family-based substance use intervention. Measures from the pre-intervention baseline assessment included ever use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and inhalants, degree of ethnic identification, and perceptions of parents' monitoring of the youth's behaviors. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted separately by gender to test the main and interactive effects of ethnic identification and parental monitoring on ever use of substances. Results: Parental monitoring predicted lower risk for substance use. An interaction of ethnic identification by parental monitoring was observed, with parental monitoring exhibiting stronger effects in decreasing the use of alcohol among boys who scored low on ethnic identification. For girls, decreased substance use was predicted by stronger parental monitoring coupled with high ethnic identification. Implications: Results are discussed in terms of how the youth's ethnic identification is a distinct process from more general aspects of acculturation, such as language use. The gender differences found in the interactions of ethnic identification with parental monitoring, however, suggest the need to consider gender roles as an additional factor. Mexican American girls high in ethnic identification may be more committed to traditional values of familismo that strengthen parent-youth relationships. Mexican American boys high on ethnic identification, however, may have conflicts between the traditional values of familismo and those of machismo that emphasize male dominance. Thus, at least for girls, ethnic identification may operate as an added protective factor, in conjunction with parental monitoring, against adolescent substance abuse in Mexican American adolescents. For boys, such ethnic identification can be focused on values of familismo, which are consistent with the alternative traditional male gender role values of caballerismo. Such ethnic identification may be important for interventions aimed at empowering parents to be more involved in their youths' lives to prevent the development of adolescent problem behaviors.