Department of Public Health Sciences

Understanding Latino adolescent risk behaviors: parental and peer influences

Livaudais JC, Napoles-Springer A, Stewart S, Kaplan CP

Ethnicity & Disease . 2007. 17(2):298-304.

OBJECTIVE: To assess baseline factors associated with having ever drunk alcohol, smoked, and having had sex two years later among a sample of Latino adolescents. DESIGN: In a prospective cohort study, Latino adolescents completed telephone surveys assessing demographic information and health-enhancing and -compromising behaviors, administered 3 times (baseline, T2, and T3) during a two-year period. SETTING: Students were recruited between 1997 and 1998, from four middle schools within three Los Angeles school districts. PARTICIPANTS: Latino adolescents in 7th and 8th grade, from any of the four middle schools, whose parents provided written permission for them to participate in a telephone health behavior survey. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Self-report of ever drank alcohol, ever smoked cigarettes, ever had sex by T3. RESULTS: Being more acculturated, engaging in risky behaviors, valuing independence, and having friends who had ever smoked at baseline were positively associated with having ever drunk alcohol and having ever smoked by T3. Parents' negative reactions to risky and unhealthy behaviors were protective against drinking and smoking. Working at a paid job and having parents with a high school education or higher were associated with drinking alcohol by T3. Older age at baseline was positively associated with having sex, while receiving good grades and valuing religion were protective against having sex. CONCLUSIONS: Findings reveal that both parents and peers are important influences on adolescent risk behaviors and suggest that interventions for adolescents to prevent such behaviors should involve peers and parents.

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