Date

May 2006

Document Type

Article

Chair

Dr. Kenneth Reeves

Primary Subject Area

Psychology, General

Keywords

Hispanic-American, Adolescent, Alcohol Abuse, Substance Abuse

Abstract

This qualitative instrumental case study investigated the issue of alcohol and substance abuse among Hispanic adolescents through the perspectives of select counselors. Hispanic-Americans are the largest and fastest growing minority population in the United States. Simultaneously, alcohol and substance abuse among Hispanic adolescents is increasing with the commensurate consequences and need for solutions.

Data was collected using semi-structured, recorded, transcribed interviews with middle school and substance abuse counselors—key informants—who practiced in a community located in the Southwestern United States. Participants’ interactions with Hispanic adolescents spanned Hispanic adolescents’ experience with alcohol and substance abuse prior to onset through treatment.

The first research question focused on contributing factors for onset and development of alcohol and substance abuse among Hispanic adolescents. Participants identified six contributing factors: (a) presence or absence of alcohol and substance abuse in the family, (b) structure of the family, (c) supervision by the family, (d) stability of the home, (e) academic achievement, and (f) peer relationships.

The second research question focused on contributing factors for efficacy of prevention and treatment programs among Hispanic adolescents. Participants identified three contributing factors, characterized as barriers to involvement in these programs: (a) being a monolingual Spanish speaker, (b) being unable to extend trust, and (c) having limited financial resources. The third research question compared and contrasted participants’ perspectives based on their function, context, and ethnicity.

The study concluded that all identified contributing factors and barriers were externalized and systemic in nature. Hispanic adolescents’ experience with alcohol and substance abuse was portrayed as being a product of Hispanic adolescents’ environment. Families were portrayed as being willing, yet unable to participate in alcohol and substance abuse programs because of systemic barriers outside of their control.

The study also concluded that individual family culture was the most influential systemic factor, having the potential to be a risk or protective factor. Participants portrayed individual family culture as having the power to mitigate risk factors outside of the family. Suggestions for future research directly involving Hispanic adolescents and their families as participants are provided.

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