Integrating Cultural Variables into Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment with Racial/ethnic Minorities

By Castro, Felipe Gonzalez; Alarcon, Eduardo Hernandez | Journal of Drug Issues, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Integrating Cultural Variables into Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment with Racial/ethnic Minorities


Castro, Felipe Gonzalez, Alarcon, Eduardo Hernandez, Journal of Drug Issues


A set of variables, identified as "cultural variables," is introduced as important descriptors of the life experiences of people from the major ethnic/racial minority groups in the United States. It is stated that most contemporary models for prevention and treatment of substance abuse are "culturally blind" to the effects of these cultural variables on the risk of substance abuse among racial/ethnic minority people. Accordingly, a viable strategy for culturally relevant research and program design is to integrate these cultural variables into extant models to create culturally rich models for research as well as for the development of prevention and treatment programs. The use of "model programs" is discussed in regard to the competing aims of maintaining program fidelity while also making cultural adaptations to these model programs to make them more culturally relevant. Strategies and recommendations are presented for integrating cultural variables into prevention and treatment programs that purport to serve racial/ethnic minority people.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE PREVENTION AND TREATMENT: ISSUES IN RACIAL/ETHNIC MINORITIES

ROLE OF CULTURE IN PREVENTION AND TREATMENT

In the past, substance abuse prevention and treatment programs have given limited or no attention to cultural variables as potential determinants of substance use and/or as integral components of programs for substance abuse prevention and treatment. Also, in the past, research studies on substance abuse have examined race and ethnicity, but have done so in a "culturally shallow" manner, typically conducting comparative studies of how one or more racial/ethnic groups may differ from a White-majority reference group (Barrera, Castro, & Biglan, 1999). This reference to cultural factors relates to aspects of culture described as "cultural constructs" or "cultural variables," which include specific beliefs, values, norms and behaviors that capture the core life experiences of racial/ethnic minority people (Cuellar, Arnold, & Gonzalez, 1995).

Table 1 presents a set of cultural variables that are often mentioned within the alcohol and drug abuse research literature that examines the lives of the major racial/ethnic groups in the United States: Hispanics/Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and American Indians. Cultural variables which relate to interpersonal relations include: familism (Sabogal, Marin, Otero-Sabogal, & Marin, 1987), individualism-collectivism (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002; Tata, & Leong, 1994), personalismo, respeto, simpatia (Griffith, Joe, Chatham, & Simpson, 1998; Marin & Marin, 1990), and tiu lien (loss of face) (Shon & Ja, 1982). Other cultural variables that operate as personal traits include: level of acculturation (Cuellar, Harris, & Jasso, 1980; Cuellar, Arnold & Gonzalez, 1995; De la Rosa, Vega, & Radish, 2000; Klonoff & Landrine, 1999; Marin & Gamboa, 1996; Suinn, Rickard-Figueroa, Lew, & Vigil, 1987), Afrocentricity (Baldwin & Bell, 1985), biculturalism, (La Fromboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993), cultural flex (Ramirez, 1999), enculturation (Wolfe, Yang, Wong, & Atkinson, 2001), ethnic identity (Bernal & Knight, 1994; Brook, Whiteman, Balka, Win, & Gursen, 1998; Castro, Sharp, Barrington, Walton & Rawson, 1991; Phinney, 1990), ethnic pride (Castro, de Anda, Abeita & Morgan-Lopez, 1999; Marsiglia, Kulis, & Hecht, 2001), ethnic affiliation (Brook, Balka, Brook, Win, & Gursen, 1998) field independence and field sensitivity (Ramirez, 1999), machismo (Cuellar, Arnold, & Gonzalez, 1995; Fragoso & Kashubeck, 2000), marianismo, (Gil & Vasquez, 1996), modernism (Ramirez, 1999), spirituality (Brome, Owens, Allen, & Vevaina, 2000; Garrett & Wilbur, 1999), and traditionalism (Castro & Gutierres, 1995; Ramirez, 1999).

Given that most ethnic minority cultural variables lend special attention to issues involving relationships within broad family networks, and to propriety in interpersonal relationships (McGoldrick, & Giordano, 1996), ethnic minority cultures may be aptly described as "relational cultures" (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2001). …

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