Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 546–560 | Cite as

Acculturation Versus Cultural Retention: The Interactive Impact of Acculturation and Co-ethnic Ties on Substance Use Among Chinese Students in the United States

  • Xiaozhao Yousef Yang
  • Fenggang Yang
Original Paper


Acculturation is often found to increase substance use among immigrants in the U.S., but such effect may depend on how immigrants are attached to their co-ethnic community. Meanwhile, the high socioeconomic status of some new immigrant groups also challenges the classical assumption that ties to co-ethnic community are associated with deviance. With a sample (n = 960) collected from a population of Chinese students in a large public university in the U.S., we tested how do the interplays between acculturation and co-ethnic ties affect substance use. This study establishes that: (1) different dimensions of acculturation have opposite effects on substance use; (2) acculturative stress does not explain the association between acculturation and substance use; (3) acculturation increases the likelihood of substance use only when one has weak attachment to their co-ethnic community. The findings are consistent for three dependent variables: smoking, drinking, and drunkenness, and for the different constructs of acculturation and co-ethnic ties. Ties to co-ethnic community may provide important social support for immigrants, while acculturation may alleviate the insular subculture that promotes at-risk behaviors. We encourage policy makers to consider the cooperative nature of acculturation and cultural retention for the improvement of health among this growing population.


Acculturation Co-ethnic community Drinking Smoking Acculturative stress Chinese immigrant 



The funding was provided by John Templeton Foundation (Grant No. 56480).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors (Xiaozhao Y. Yang, Fenggang Yang) declare no conflict of interest involved during any stage of the conduct of this research.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science and SociologyMurray State UniversityMurrayUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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