Culturally sensitive interventions can be effective in preventing alcohol-related problems in Latino students

The negative consequences of excessive drinking are well documented, but little is known about how interventions are designed to prevent drinking problems by Hispanic college students, the fastest-growing ethnic minority group on American college campuses.

A new study led by Katja Waldron, a doctoral candidate in bio-behavioral health at Penn State, suggests that developing culturally sensitive interventions for Latino students in first and second years of college can be effective in preventing alcohol-related problems during college and later in life.

The study examined whether racial and family identity influenced the frequency of Latino students’ drinking and the likelihood of developing alcohol-related problems in their fourth year of college.

Waldron explained that racial identity refers to an individual’s sense of belonging to that racial group, and that the family is a Latin cultural value of the family as the primary source of social support and identity.

Previous research has shown that Hispanic ethnic identity and family can be protective against physical health risks and risky drinking, but questions remain about how the two interact to influence college alcohol use.”

Katja Waldron, Ph.D. candidate in bio-behavioral health, Penn State

The research team surveyed 245 Latino students about their cultural values, drinking behaviors, and alcohol-related consequences from two predominantly white institutions in the northeastern and northwestern United States and one Hispanic service institution in the southwestern United States. years in college. Possible consequences covered five categories – syncope, sexual consequences, social problems, poor control, and academic impairment.

The study found that racial pride – the extent to which one feels proud or confident about one’s ethnic identity – was associated with a much lower degree of consequences associated with drinking and alcohol. Conversely, racial shame—the extent to which one feels embarrassed or ashamed of one’s racial identity—was associated with a greater likelihood of a drinking problem.

Familismo during the first year of college was not a direct predictor of heavy drinking and consequences during the fourth year. However, familismo was indirectly associated with drinking and consequences through racial identity. Familismo predicted more racial pride, while less family expected more racial shame. The results have been published in The Journal of Race in Substance Abuse.

When examining the drinking patterns of the Hispanic student group, Waldron found a “cross effect” showing that Hispanic students drank less and had fewer alcohol-related consequences in

The first two years of college – followed by an increase in the amount of alcohol consumed and negative consequences starting in the third year and increasing during the fourth year.

According to the researchers, studies have consistently shown that parents can play a positive role in their children’s attitudes toward drinking — through modeling, monitoring, communication, and rule-making, said Robert Torrisi, a professor of Vital Behavioral Health at Penn State and the study’s principal investigator.

The research team recommended focus group interviews with Latino parents and college students.

“In order to effectively incorporate elements of racial identity and family into an intervention program, researchers must first speak with Latino parents and students directly to understand how the study findings resonate with them,” Waldron said. “I hope to support the development of intervention programs that assist Latino college students using a personalized approach.”

Waldron and Torrisi collaborated on this study with Eduardo Romano, senior researcher and expert on the links between Latin culture and alcohol use at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation; and Erin Wolfe and Alexa Plisiewicz, who were undergraduate researchers at Penn State at the time of this study.

The study was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Journal reference:

Waldron, CA et al. (2022) The long-term impact of family and racial identity on Latino undergraduate drinking and high-risk consequences. The Journal of Race in Substance Abuse.

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