Academic journal article Social Work Research

Influences of School Latino Composition and Linguistic Acculturation on a Prevention Program for Youths

Academic journal article Social Work Research

Influences of School Latino Composition and Linguistic Acculturation on a Prevention Program for Youths

Article excerpt

This study examined how ethnic composition and linguistic acculturation within schools affected the efficacy of a youth substance use prevention model program. Data came from a randomized trial of the keepin' it REAL program, using a predominantly Mexican American sample of middle school students in Phoenix, Arizona. Schools were randomly assigned to a control group or one of three culturally tailored intervention versions. The authors hypothesized that school ethnic and linguistic acculturation composition (percentage Latino, percentage non-English-speaking at home) and individual level of linguistic acculturation would jointly moderate the efficacy of the prevention program, as indicated by students' alcohol, marijuana, and cigarette use. With multilevel linear modeling and multiple imputation techniques used to manage clustered data and attrition, results show that desired program effects varied by linguistic acculturation level of the school, program version, and individual acculturation level. The Latino intervention version was more efficacious in schools with larger percentages of non-English-speaking families, but only among less linguistically acculturated Latino students. There were no significant school-level program effects connected to the percentage of Latino students at school or the other versions of the program, nor were there any such effects among more linguistically acculturated students.

KEY WORDS: acculturation; Hispanic/Latino; prevention; school composition; substance use


Drawing on prior work suggesting that some b predominately Latino schools may create uniquely protective environments for Latino students, at least in terms of their academic outcomes (Goldsmith, 2003; Morrison Institute for Public Policy/Center for the Future of Arizona, 2006), the present study tested whether the same might be true for substance use. It examined whether Latino predominance and the mix of more and less acculturated students in schools enhanced drug prevention program outcomes among Latino students. In addition, it explored whether the effects of school composition on program efficacy differed according to individual students' acculturation level.


Whether an intervention focuses on individual or contextual (for example, peer, family, community) factors, it is implemented in a specific context, the characteristics of which may influence its success. Many interventions have been shown to be efficacious in randomized controlled trials, but these results are tied to the contexts in which the trials were conducted. They do not guarantee success in alternate contexts, nor do they reveal whether the programs could have been more successful in alternate contexts. Effectiveness and replication studies aim to test program effects in alternate settings, but they leave open the possibility of program failure as a result of implementation in a context that undermines effectiveness, such as when there is a poor match between an intervention's design and content and the social and cultural context in which it is implemented. An alternative approach to contextual efficacy is to explicitly examine contextual factors that may enhance or undermine program efficacy for a given intervention. With advance knowledge of the contexts to which interventions are best suited, organizations can select interventions that are appropriate for the target context and not merely for the individuals at risk in that context.

Recent research has shed light on the distinction between individual and contextual levels when it comes to program efficacy. One study examined the efficacy of a universal substance use prevention program for Latino youths at different levels of risk for substance use, showing that the program achieved larger desired program outcomes for high-risk youths; this effect was explained in large part by treatment floor effects among the low-risk youths (Marsiglia, Kulis, Wagstaff, Elek, & Dran, 2005). …

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