, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 397-410
Date: 21 May 2010

Applying General Strain Theory to Examine Perceived Discrimination’s Indirect Relation to Mexican-Heritage Youth’s Alcohol, Cigarette, and Marijuana Use

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Abstract

Latent growth curve modeling was used to test four hypotheses. First, this study hypothesized that acculturation-related variables (e.g., Mexican-heritage youth’s country of origin, time spent in the U.S., and language preference with family and friends) would be associated with initial levels of perceived discrimination. Guided by general strain theory (GST), this study then posed a second hypothesis: Initial levels of perceived discrimination would be indirectly related to initial levels of substance use through initial levels of acculturation stress. Third, this study hypothesized that changes in perceived discrimination would be indirectly related to changes in substance use through changes in acculturation stress. As a fourth hypothesis, it was postulated that initial levels of perceived discrimination would be indirectly related to changes in substance use through changes in acculturation stress. Mexican-heritage youth (N = 1,106) from 29 schools in Phoenix, AZ completed surveys at six waves from 5th through 8th grades. In partial support of the first hypothesis, more time spent in the U.S. and speaking English with friends were associated with lower levels of perceived discrimination. The second hypothesis was not supported. Initial levels of perceived discrimination were positively associated with initial levels of acculturation stress; however, this association was not found between initial levels of acculturation stress and substance use. The third and fourth hypotheses were supported, which buttressed predictions derived from GST. Both initial levels and increases in perceived discrimination were indirectly related to increases in substance use through increases in acculturation stress.

Jennifer Kam is an assistant professor in the School of Communication at The Ohio State University. Michael Cleveland is a research associate in The Methodology Center at The Pennsylvania State University. Michael Hecht is Distinguished Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University
This manuscript was supported by Grant Numbers R01 DA005629 and T32 DA017629 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to The Pennsylvania State University (Grant Recipient) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse Center Grant P50 DA100075 to The Methodology Center. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.