Academic journal article Contemporary Drug Problems

Handbook for Conducting Drug Abuse Research with Hispanic Populations

Academic journal article Contemporary Drug Problems

Handbook for Conducting Drug Abuse Research with Hispanic Populations

Article excerpt

Handbook for Conducting Drug Abuse Research with Hispanic Populations, by Robert C. Freeman, Yvonne P. Lewis, and Hector Manuel Colon (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002), 368 pp., $72 (cloth only).

One of the primary goals of drug abuse research is to predict outcomes such as "addiction" while controlling for individual or group differences. The identification of "risk and protective factors" attracts much scientific attention, and one assumes that ultimately this knowledge improves prevention and treatment efforts. The investigation of drug abuse among Latinos requires an especially nuanced conceptual and methodological framework that appropriately models a number of dimensions that determine within- and between-group variation. Drug type, socioeconomic status, educational attainment, Englishlanguage proficiency, national origin, race, gender, community characteristics, and acculturation level may all be determinants of drug abuse among Hispanics.

Acculturation is the level of cultural "assimilation" or incorporation of an individual to a "foreign" or receiving society; it is central to many studies of drug abuse among Latinos. The experience of transitioning into a new culture may lead to "acculturation stress": social and psychological stress associated with the challenges of immigration, such as lower socioeconomic status, new social expectations, loss of ethnic identity, and intergenerational family conflict. Acculturation influences socialization, social support networks, and protective factors.

To contend with issues of demographic diversity and acculturation, drug abuse research with Latinos inevitably must utilize multilevel models that can account for personallevel variables (i.e., behavior, biology and neurobiology) and also include cultural and environmental variables that may lead to systematic differences (e.g., socioeconomic status).

One of the most sophisticated models of how Latino cultural adaptation influences drug abuse, and health behavior in general, can be found in the work of Vega and Gil (1999). This model seeks to account for observed differences in health outcomes between native-born Latino adolescents and immigrant Hispanic adolescents. The model sorts factors into five categories: "context of exit," accounting for the family's developmental stage and circumstances prior to exit; "immigration experience," concerning the family's circumstances encountered upon exit and entrance; "acculturation process" and "acculturation stress" as experienced by the parents and children, and influenced by each family member's individual level of assimilation; "segmented assimilation" of family members into the local environment-for example, local housing and labor markets and school systems; and "family stress" resulting from loss of traditional family customs, acculturation stress, and changing family roles.

De La Rosa (2002) also developed a model that accounts for the influence of acculturation on Latino adolescent drug behavior. The outcomes in the model are alcohol, cigarette, and illicit substance abuse. It centers on a typology of cultural identity that contrasts the relative weight "Latino" and "American" cultural influences might have on a Hispanic youth. Latino adolescents can have a cultural identity that is "low Latino-low American," "low Latino-high American," "high Latino-low American," or "high Latino-high American." The model includes a host of mitigating factors that determine the level of "acculturation stress" experienced by Hispanic adolescents. These mitigating influences are "individual factors and characteristics" (for example, skin color, tolerance for change, and previous contact with American culture); "family factors," including economic conditions and family members' previous contact with American culture; and the "community environment," which is affected by school conditions, economic opportunities, crime level, and cultural orientation. The responses to acculturation stress and the degree of coping with it are determined by the "family factors" of parent-child bonding and family dysfunction; "personality variables" of low selfesteem, aggressive behavior, and anxiety; and "peer factors," in particular the association with either deviant or nondeviant peers. …

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