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

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Scholars have noted that the term ethnic identity and racial identity represent very similar constructs at the level of lived experiences (Cross and Cross 2008; Markus 2008), and although they are not synonymous terms (Burlew et al. 2000; Phinney and Ong 2007), scholars have proposed combining them into one unifying construct (Rivas-Drake et al. 2014; Umaña-Taylor et al. 2014). Although some research, primarily those focused on African American sample, use the term racial identity, for ease of presentation, we use the term ethnic identity for all racial/ethnic groups.

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Funding

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.

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Correspondence to Tamika C. B. Zapolski.

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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.

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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.

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

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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Zapolski, T.C.B., Fisher, S., Banks, D.E. et al. Examining the Protective Effect of Ethnic Identity on Drug Attitudes and Use Among a Diverse Youth Population. J Youth Adolescence 46, 1702–1715 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-016-0605-0

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Keywords

  • Ethnic identity
  • Drug attitudes
  • Youth
  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Minorities