Acculturation Moderators and Functional Mediators of the Gender Role-Alcohol Use Relationship In Mexican American Adolescent Boys
Methods: Secondary data analyses were conducted on a sample of 420 Mexican American boys tested in the 7th and 8th grades in a school-based substance use intervention study. Besides measures of substance use (alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, inhalants), the data set at Wave 5 and Wave 6 also included measures of positive and negative gender roles, linguistic acculturation, antisociality, depressive symptoms, and adaptive/avoidant coping.
Results: A path analysis yielded a significant direct path from aggressive masculinity to a composite alcohol use measure. Bootstrapped mediation tests also yielded significant indirect paths though antisociality from assertive masculinity, affective femininity, aggressive masculinity, and the interaction of linguistic acculturation by affective femininity to alcohol use. This interaction resulted from affective femininity being strongly negatively correlated with antisociality for boys low in acculturation, but this effect was attenuated for boys in the middle range for acculturation and disappeared entirely for boys high in acculturation. A different set of significant indirect paths through avoidant coping went from assertive masculinity and submissive femininity to alcohol use.
Conclusions: The present findings affirm the importance of gender roles as risk factors for substance use in Mexican and Mexican American adolescents, but also delineate functional mediators through which these gender roles have their effects with substance use. The stronger effects of gender roles in predicting antisociality and substance use for low acculturated boys were interpreted in terms of the effects of socialization into traditional Mexican gender roles associated with machismo, which should be taken into account for intervention programs targeting gender roles to reduce substance use in this population.
Implications: These findings confirm the importance of considering gender roles in understanding the etiology of substance use in Mexican American adolescents, and how their influence varies by acculturation. Behaviors and attitudes associated with machismo may be identifiable risk factors for substance use particularly among less acculturated Mexican American adolescent boys. Efforts to understand and intervene in gender role socialization may be an important target for preventing substance use problems in Mexican American adolescents.