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 U.S. and one Hispanic serving institution in the southwestern U.S. They surveyed the students in their first, second and fourth years of college. Possible consequences covered five categories – blackouts, sexual consequences, social problems, impaired control and academic impairment.
The study found that ethnic pride – extent to which one feels proud or confident about their ethnic identity — was associated with significantly less drinking and alcohol-related consequences. Conversely, ethnic shame — the extent to which one feels embarrassed or ashamed of their ethnic identity – was linked to a higher likelihood of problem drinking.
Familismo during the first year of college was not directly predictive of drinking and consequences during the fourth year. However, familismo was indirectly associated with drinking and consequences through ethnic identity. Familismo predicted more ethnic pride, while less familismo predicted more ethnic shame. The results are published in the Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse..
When examining the drinking patterns of the Latino student group, Waldron found a “crossover effect” showing that the Latino students drank less and had less alcohol-related consequences in the first two years of college — followed by an increase in both the amount of alcohol consumed and negative consequences beginning in the third year and increasing through the fourth year.
Parents can influence drinking behaviors
Research has consistently shown that parents can play a positive role in their children’s attitudes towards drinking — through modeling, monitoring, communication, and rule setting, said Robert Turrisi, Penn State professor of biobehavioral health and a principal investigator on the project.
The research team recommended conducting focus group interviews with Latino parents and college students.
“In order to effectively incorporate elements of ethnic identity and familismo into an intervention program, researchers must first speak with the Latino parents and students directly to understand how the study’s findings resonate with them,” Waldron said. “My hopes are to support development of intervention programs that help Latino college students by using a personalized approach.”
Waldron and Turrisi collaborated on this study with Eduardo Romano, senior research scientist and expert on the links between Latino 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 with funding from the National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.