Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 1702–1715 | Cite as

Examining the Protective Effect of Ethnic Identity on Drug Attitudes and Use Among a Diverse Youth Population

  • Tamika C. B. ZapolskiEmail author
  • Sycarah Fisher
  • Devin E. Banks
  • Devon J. Hensel
  • Jessica Barnes-Najor
Empirical Research


Ethnic identity is an important buffer against drug use among minority youth. However, limited work has examined pathways through which ethnic identity mitigates risk. School-aged youth (N = 34,708; 52 % female) of diverse backgrounds (i.e., African American (n = 5333), Asian (n = 392), Hispanic (n = 662), Multiracial (n = 2129), Native American (n = 474), and White (n = 25718) in grades 4–12 provided data on ethnic identity, drug attitudes, and drug use. After controlling for gender and grade, higher ethnic identity was associated with lower past month drug use for African American, Hispanic, and Multiracial youth. Conversely, high ethnic identity was associated with increased risk for White youth. An indirect pathway between ethnic identity, drug attitudes, and drug use was also found for African American, Hispanic, and Asian youth. Among White youth the path model was also significant, but in the opposite direction. These findings confirm the importance of ethnic identity for most minority youth. Further research is needed to better understand the association between ethnic identity and drug use for Multiracial and Hispanic youth, best ways to facilitate healthy ethnic identity development for minority youth, and how to moderate the risk of identity development for White youth.


Ethnic identity Drug attitudes Youth Alcohol Marijuana Minorities 



This research was supported by NIH award KL2TR001106 to A. Shekhar and Tamika Zapolski and by NIH award DA05312 to Sycarah Fisher. Writing of the manuscript was supported by NIH/NIDA award R25DA035163 to Tamika Zapolski.

Authors’ Contributions

The contribution of each author is as follows: TZ conceived of the study, participated in its design, conducted statistical analysis, interpretation of data, drafting of the manuscript, and coordinated writing components for co-authors; SF participated in the study design, and contributed to drafting of the manuscript and editing; DB contributed to drafting the manuscript and editing; DH participated in the study design, conducted primary statistical analyses, drafting of the manuscript, and editing; JB participated in the design and coordination of the parent study, worked with community partners to develop the measurement plan, conducted data collection and processing, and participated in manuscript editing. All authors have given final approval of the version to be published.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The authors do not have any interests or activities that might be interpreted as influencing the research submitted, and this study was conducted in accordance with APA ethical standards. This research has not been presented at a conference and is not under consideration for publication with any other journals.

Ethical Approval

Data collected for this study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board/ethnics committee at Michigan State University and the research has been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

Informed Consent

All participants in the study provided informed assent, with informed consent provided by their legal guardian.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tamika C. B. Zapolski
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sycarah Fisher
    • 2
  • Devin E. Banks
    • 1
  • Devon J. Hensel
    • 3
  • Jessica Barnes-Najor
    • 4
  1. 1.Indiana University Purdue UniversityIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.University of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  3. 3.Indiana University School of Medicine and Indiana University Purdue UniversityIndianapolisUSA
  4. 4.Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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