Abstract: Venezuelan Youth in Diaspora: A Multisite Study of Crisis Migration and Cultural Stress (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Venezuelan Youth in Diaspora: A Multisite Study of Crisis Migration and Cultural Stress

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Independence BR A, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Christopher Salas-Wright, PhD, Assistant Professor, Boston University, Boston, MA
Mariana Cohen, MSW Student, Boston University
Patricia Andrade, Director, Raices Venezolanas
Jose Rodriguez, Vicario, Iglesia Episcopal Jesús de Nazaret
Mariana Sanchez, PhD, Assistant Professor, Florida International University
Seth Schwartz, PhD, Professor, University of Miami, Miami, FL
Background and Purpose: The United Nations estimates that—since 2015—more than 3 million Venezuelans have fled their once prosperous nation, prompting an ever-intensifying refugee crisis that is expected to exceed that of Syria. Although Colombia has received the bulk of Venezuelan migrants, tens of thousands have sought refuge in the United States (US), largely in South and Central Florida. Cultural stress theory is concerned with how adverse migration-related experiences (e.g., discrimination, negative context of reception) are related to disruptions in family functioning and, in turn, to adolescent substance use risk. While prior research has examined migration-related cultural stress among Latin American immigrant youth in general, our understanding of cultural stress and adaptation in the context of crisis migration—that is, large-scale relocations prompted by catastrophic social, political, economic, or environmental events—remains limited. In the present study, we test cultural stress theory among a sample of newly-arrived Venezuelan crisis migrant youth in South and Central Florida.  

Methods:  The present study draws from a multisite study of recently-arrived (≤ 3 years) Venezuelan youth (ages 10-16) in Miami and Orlando, Florida. A total of 260 youth were recruited via community-based partner organizations using respondent-driven sampling strategies between December 2018 and March 2019. Among the survey items, youth participants completed measures examining perceived discrimination (Cronbach’s α = 0.80; Phinney et al., 1998), negative context of reception (Cronbach’s α = 0.91; Schwartz et al., 2014), and substance use normative beliefs (Cronbach’s α = 0.86; Marsiglia et al., 2016). All surveys were completed in Spanish and all measures were back-translated and reviewed for linguistic and cultural appropriateness. Focus groups (N = 4) were conducted with study participants in Miami and Orlando using an explanatory sequential mixed methods design.

Results: The mean age for respondents was 13.5 years (SD = 1.9), 50% were female, and 58% had migrated to the US since 2017. One in six Venezuelan youth reported recurrent discrimination from other youth or teachers (17%) and 21% reported experiencing, on average, a negative context of reception across multiple domains. The path model showed good fit (χ2 = 12.3, p = .138; CFI = 0.967, RMSEA = 0.055). Path analysis results revealed that discrimination was related to substance use normative beliefs indirectly (β = .049, p < .01) via family communication and family support. Supplemental analyses also revealed that substance use normative beliefs robustly predicted past month tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana use (AOR = 10.46, 95% CI = 3.87-28.27). Focus group results provide qualitative insight into the migration-related experiences of Venezuelan youth and their relationships with family functioning and substance use risk.

Conclusions and Implications:  Many Venezuelans in the US face an uncertain future as they await asylum hearings and adapt to life in a society in the midst of bitter debate over immigration and changing demographics. The present study provides new evidence on the experiences of recently-arrived Venezuelan youth, laying the groundwork for community partnerships to develop guidelines, best practices, and intervention recommendations that will guide the future development of preventive interventions.