Prevention Science

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 397–410

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

  • Jennifer A. Kam
  • Michael J. Cleveland
  • Michael L. Hecht


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.


General strain theory Perceived discrimination Substance use Mexican-heritage youth Latent growth curve modeling 


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer A. Kam
    • 1
  • Michael J. Cleveland
    • 2
  • Michael L. Hecht
    • 3
  1. 1.School of CommunicationThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.The Methodology CenterThe Pennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA
  3. 3.Communication Arts & SciencesThe Pennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA

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