Alcohol use among Latina/o adolescents : the role of immigration, family, and peer stressors




Bakhtiari, Farin

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Immigration is a radical change in context, which can take place for the sake of children to improve their life quality. In the U.S., approximately one in four individuals are members of immigrant families, and Latinos are one of the largest immigrant groups (Trevelyan et al., 2016). Latino individuals in the U.S. display relatively high rates of high-risk drinking and can suffer health or social consequences of alcohol use or alcohol use disorders as a result (Chartier & Caetano, 2010; Miech et al., 2018; Spillane et al., 2020). Families and peers are two primary contexts influencing Latino adolescents' substance use in general (Parsai et al, 2009; Pereyra & Bean, 2017), but Latino adolescents in immigrant families may specifically experience immigration-related stressors that can influence their families' dynamics, and, in turn, their alcohol use either directly (Salas-Wright & Schwartz, 2019) or indirectly through peers given that the family and peer contexts are interconnected (Paat, 2013). The three dissertation studies presented here explored the effects of general and immigration-related family conflict on Latino youth’s alcohol use while considering the potential mediating role of friends' alcohol use. In Study 1, I used data from 872 Latino adolescents who participated in the national study of Monitoring the Future, who were followed from the age of 18 to 30. I examined general parent-child conflict in relation to Latino adolescents’ and young adults’ alcohol use and alcohol use trajectories and the potential mediating role of friends' alcohol use. The results showed that general parent-child conflict was indirectly— through friends' alcohol use—associated with annual alcohol use in 12th grade but not with 12th grade binge drinking. The links to the trajectories were limited and complex, and they are explained in Study 1. For Study 2, I moved beyond general parent-child conflict through a three-phase scale-development study that included 12 Latino young adults for focus groups and item generation, 353 Latino young adults for survey data and psychometric evaluation, and 10 Latino adolescents for semi-structured interviews and feedback on items. Study 2 resulted in two subscales for the measure assessing immigration-related parent-child conflict (i.e., 4-item subscale of parent-child conflict about immigration-related expectations and sacrifices and the 5-item subscale of parent-child conflict about acculturation-related topics) as well as a 5-item scale on immigration-related interparental conflict. Finally, in Study 3, I brought Study 1 and Study 2 together and examined the role of general versus immigration-related interparental conflict and parent-child conflict in relation to Latino adolescents’ alcohol use and considered the potential mediating role of close friends' alcohol use. Study 3 was part of an on-going community study, and data were collected from 171 Latino adolescents in 10th grade who were members of immigrant families. In Study 3, the results provided some, albeit limited, evidence that general interparental conflict and general parent-child conflict took their toll on alcohol use indirectly and through friends' alcohol use, whereas immigration-related interparental conflict yielded a direct (rather than indirect) link with alcohol use. There were no significant direct or indirect associations between immigration-related parent-child conflict and alcohol use. The results from Study 3 must be interpreted with caution, and more research is needed to examine the associations between immigration-related family conflict and Latino adolescents' alcohol use. The findings from these three studies provide some evidence, albeit limited and primarily cross-sectional, that Latino youth may face unique stressors such as immigration-related interparental conflict (e.g., whether immigration to the USA has been good for their family) and immigration-related parent-child conflict (e.g., their parents thinking adolescents should appreciate their immigration sacrifices more), which have the potential to be distinctly linked with alcohol use among Latino adolescents. Additionally, the results point to the importance of implementing multisystem approaches that target both family and peer contexts in prevention and intervention programs that aim to curtail alcohol use among Latino youth, particularly those in immigrant families.


LCSH Subject Headings