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Seth Schwartz, Professor at the Department of Public Health Sciences, is the Director of the Ph.D. program in Prevention Science and Community Health. Schwartz’s research focuses on the interface among identity processes, family relationships, health risk outcomes, and wellbeing. His article analyzes the cultural stressors that contribute to substance use among Hispanic immigrant youth.



TIMOTHY J. GRIGSBY, MYRIAM FORSTER, ALAN MECA, BYRON L. ZAMBOANGA, SETH J. SCHWARTZ, JENNIFER B. UNGER. (2018) “Cultural stressors, identity development, and substance use attitudes among Hispanic immigrant adolescents.” Journal of Community Psychology 46.1: 117-132.

This article highlights the bicultural stressors that contribute to substance use among non-U.S. born Hispanic youth. The researchers established a unique sample of mostly Cuban and Mexican immigrant adolescents in both Miami and Los Angeles. The findings of the study deserve particular attention because it informs future interventions that can address migrant identity formation, stress, mental health, and substance use, as well as broader social justice issues around immigration on a community level. The study presents significant theoretical implications for understanding the relationship between cultural stress and substance use outcomes for immigrant youth.

Abstract: The goal of this investigation was to determine whether various cultural stressors (bicultural stress, perceived discrimination, and perceived negative context of reception [PNCR]) predict positive and negative substance use attitudes, directly and indirectly through personal identity, in a sample of immigrant Hispanic adolescents. Data on cultural stressors, substance use attitudes, and covariates were collected from 302 Hispanic immigrant adolescents (152 from Miami [61% Cuban] and 150 from Los Angeles [70% Mexican]) at 3 time points. PNCR was associated with identity confusion (β = .175, p = .033). Identity confusion significantly predicted higher positive attitudes toward alcohol and other drug (AOD; β = .216, p < .001) and cigarette use (β = .191, p = .015) and mediated the relationship between PNCR with unfavorable AOD attitudes (β = −.019, 95% confidence interval [CI] [− 0.052, − 0.001]) and favorable AOD attitudes (β = 0.038, 95% CI [0.003, 0.086]). Perceptions of a negative context of reception may hinder successful personal identity formation and impact health outcomes for immigrant youth.

Keywords: Cultural Stressors; Substance Use; Perceived Discrimination; Immigrant Adolescent; Identity

DOI: 10.1002/jcop.21920