Drug Use among Asian-Indian Adolescents: Identifying Protective/risk Factors

Article excerpt


The problem of meeting the normative demands of two cultures (host country and country of origin) has been linked to adolescent substance use as a way to cope with conflicts with parents. This paper examines intergenerational conflict as a precursor to alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use among second-generation Asian-Indian adolescents (Asian Americans whose parents emigrated from India). Based on systems theory, a structural model depicting the linkage and temporal sequelae of mediating factors is presented. Risk and protective factors unique to Asian-Indian adolescents--sociodemographic, family relationship, peer bonding, psychological, cultural, and ecological--are identified. Further, the impact of gender differences on family relationships is examined. Implications of the findings for drug use prevention policies, with special emphasis on developing comprehensive primary prevention strategies, are discussed.


The increasingly multicultural composition of American society underscores the need to understand acculturation issues. Studies have indicated that the acculturation process may create intergenerational conflict. Intergenerational conflict surrounding role expectancies and individual behavior, in turn, tends to destabilize family relations. Thus, family conflict polarizes parents and children, which may lead to deviant behavior and alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) use by these children (Szapocznik & Hernandez, 1988; Szapocznik & Truss, 1978; Vega et al., 1993). The primary goal of this paper is to examine intergenerational conflict as a contributing factor in ATOD use among second-generation Asian-Indian adolescents (Asian Americans whose parents emigrated from India).


Between 1980 and 1990, the Asian-Indian population grew by 126%, as compared with 108% for Asian Americans overall (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990). Asian-Indians are now the fourth largest Asian-American group. However, there are significant differences among Asian-Indian, Chinese, and Japanese Americans (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990). While the national average for completing four or more years of high school is 66.5%, it is 80.1% for Asian-Indian, 71.3% for Chinese, and 81.6% for Japanese Americans. Also, while 51.9% of Asian-Indian, 36.6% of Chinese, and 26.4% of Japanese Americans have completed four or more years of college, the national average is 16.2%.


Empirical data on drug use patterns among Asian-American adolescents are limited (Chi, Lubben, & Kitano, 1989; Kitano & Chi, 1990; Sue & Nakamura, 1984; Takaki, 1989). However, studies indicate that as second-generation Asian Americans integrate into society, they may begin using increasingly more alcohol and drugs (Austin, Prendergast, & Lee, 1989; Chi, Lubben, & Kitano, 1989; Fong, 1992; Ross-Sheriff, 1992).

There is little research on intergenerational conflict and ATOD use among Asian-Indian adolescents. Government statistics do not usually break down information by ethnic subgroup. Although it is generally believed that ATOD use is low among Asian-Indian adolescents, low prevalence rates may be a function of underreporting. This underscores the need for valid and culturally sensitive instruments. Another theory is that protective factors may prevent initiation into ATOD use among Asian-Indian adolescents, which underscores the importance of investigating the individual, familial, and systemic factors that bolster resistance to ATOD use.

Multiple sources (e.g., films, literature, anecdotal evidence, case studies, newspaper reports) show increasing identity-related problems within Asian-Indian families, specifically as a result of intergenerational conflict (Jain, 1990; Jindal, 1989; Naipaul, 1990; Saran, 1985). Recognizing the urgency of the problem, community organizations have addressed intergenerational conflict, especially in the areas of family relationships, socialization, drug use/abuse, identity formation, and social perception about the host country. …