Examining the role of acculturation among dually diagnosed Hispanic adolescents

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology

First Committee Member

Kent F. Burnett - Committee Chair


Drug and alcohol use by adolescents represents one of the nation's most serious public health challenges, with an increasing risk of drug use among Hispanic youth. In addition, a burgeoning Hispanic population in the United States, coupled with the fact that on average Hispanics are younger than other ethnic groups in this country, indicates that a severe drug use problem may emerge among Hispanic youth in the near future. There are important cultural differences that distinguish Hispanics from the dominant European American culture. Thus examining cultural factors, namely acculturation and differential acculturation, may provide evidence about how to understand and possibly address the drug abuse problem among Hispanics in the United States. Although previous research has focused on the relationships between ethnicity, cultural differences, family functioning and substance abuse in Hispanic adolescents, these studies have not done so with carefully diagnosed and well-characterized comorbid clinical samples. This dissertation examined the relationship between adolescent acculturation and parent-adolescent acculturation differences and adolescent substance use, psychiatric comorbidity, and family functioning among a group of severely impaired, comorbid Hispanic youth referred for residential substance abuse treatment. It was hypothesized that more acculturated Hispanic adolescents and those from families reporting greater differential acculturation would exhibit greater substance use and that greater acculturation would be positively related to externalizing behaviors and disorders. In this secondary analysis of a larger parent study, the results of the multiple regression and logistic regression analyses provide some support for the study hypotheses. Interestingly, some significant relationships were identified in the opposite direction to that hypothesized. It was discovered that with this severely impaired, dually diagnosed clinical sample, Hispanic adolescents not born in the United States (i.e., less acculturated teens), tend to report greater frequency of drug use. With respect to acculturation differences between adolescents and parents, a significant correlation was seen between adolescents born in the United States and parents born outside of the United States and frequency of alcohol use; in families where acculturation differences were more evident, alcohol use by teens was more frequent. This finding is consistent with previous literature. Implications for future research are discussed.


Psychology, Clinical; Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

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