Among Hispanic adolescents, cultural factors such as acculturation, perceived discrimination, and acculturative stress are risk factors for drug use. Previous studies suggest that the effects of acculturation on drug use may be mediated by family functioning; when adolescents acculturate more rapidly than their parents, the parent- child acculturation discrepancy can lead to breakdowns in family communication and cohesion and increases in family conflict, which in turn can lead to risky behaviors such as drug use among the adolescents. Although there is considerable information about the role of family acculturation patterns in drug use among Hispanic adolescents, we do not know how family acculturation patterns affect adolescents as they transition into the next stage of life, emerging adulthood. Emerging adulthood, a provisional stage in which young adults try out adult roles but may not become firmly entrenched in them, is characterized by identity exploration, residential instability, self-focus, a subjective feeling of being between adolescence and true adulthood, and increased opportunities. In general, individuals who navigate this transition smoothly emerge with a more developed sense of identity, successful interpersonal relationships, new life roles, and minimal levels of substance use. However, the high level of independence and low level of social constraints that occur during emerging adulthood also make this a high-risk period for drug use and other problem behaviors. Understanding how factors in adolescence affect drug use in early adulthood can lead to better intervention efforts for adolescents. More research is needed to determine how cultural factors influence the transition to emerging adulthood among Hispanics and to identify the risk factors for escalation of drug use during this pivotal transition. This continuation application proposes to follow an established cohort of Hispanic adolescents (12th graders in the 2008-2009 school year) for an additional 4 years to identify the predictors of their drug use trajectories during the transition to emerging adulthood.
The Specific Aims of the proposed research are the following: (1) Conduct an additional 4 annual surveys of the participants; (2) Construct individual growth curves to describe their use of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs; (3) Identify the predictors of the growth curve parameters, including cultural factors, peer factors, substance use during high school, psychological factors, and demographic factors; (4) Evaluate emerging adulthood variables as potential mediators of these influences, including identity exploration, experimentation / possibilities, instability (residential mobility, role transitions), self-focus, and subjective experience of being in-between adolescence and adulthood; and (5) Make recommendations for the development of improved health education messages to prevent drug use among acculturating Hispanics during the transition to emerging adulthood.
This application addresses the public health goals of preventing and reducing substance use among young adults. It also aims to reduce health disparities by identifying risk and protective factors that are specific to Hispanics.
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