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High risk behaviors among Latino adolescents along the US/ Mexico border


Use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana continues to be a serious problem among Latino adolescents. These behaviors contribute to increased short-term risk (e.g., accidents) and long-term health problems (e.g., lung cancer). Health behavior constructs may be significant correlates of substance use. The purpose of these studies was to identify theoretical constructs prominent in the Behavioral Ecological Model and test their association with substance use. Data for these studies come from a sample of Latino adolescents living along the US/Mexico border that tested positive for latent tuberculosis infection. Chapter 2 presents a study separately testing a multivariate model and its association with alcohol and tobacco use. Peer modeling emerged as significant for both alcohol and tobacco use, but parental consistency was only associated with alcohol use. This finding indicates a potential difference in the uptake of these two substances, and suggests a potential point of intervention for future studies. The independent variable for chapter 3 was gateway drug use (alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana). Chapter 3 includes a comparison between parent-adolescent dyad perceptions of parents' parenting practices. Only variables reported by adolescents were significantly related to gateway drug use. The discrepancies in predictive value between parent and adolescent reports represent a new finding among Latinos and imply a need for higher quality measures of parenting practices. Chapter 4 includes an exploratory study of the built environment and its association with gateway drug use, while controlling for potential confounding variables. This study involved the use of geocoded participant addresses and their proximity to alcohol and tobacco retailers. Results from this study suggest possible gender differences related to use of gateway drugs in neighborhoods determined as high- risk. Female rates of gateway drug use were lowest in areas closest to retailers. Such areas demonstrated less favorable demographic characteristics. Future studies should explore the possibility of differential gender- related influences (e.g., parents are more controlling of girls vs. boys in high risk areas) that may impact use of alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana. Together these studies extend our current understanding of risk factors and correlates of substance use among Latino adolescents living along the US/Mexico border

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