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Trajectories of Acculturation and Enculturation in Relation to Heavy Episodic Drinking and Marijuana Use in a Sample of Mexican American Serious Juvenile Offenders

NCJ Number
Journal of Drug Issues Volume: 38 Issue: 1 Dated: Winter 2008 Pages: 171-198
Date Published
28 pages

This study examined longitudinal relationships of multiple dimensions of acculturation (mutual influence of two cultures in interaction with one another) and enculturation (strong identification with one's ethnic cultural values against mainstream culture) regarding heavy episodic alcohol consumption and marijuana use in a sample of 300 male, Mexican-American serious juvenile offenders.


The overall pattern of the findings indicates that being acculturated (bicultural) was related to relatively low initial levels of heavy episodic drinking and marijuana use and a decrease in both heavy episodic drinking and marijuana use over time. On the other hand, Mexican-Americans who maintained a high ethnic identity began the study period substantially higher in alcohol use than the group having a blend of ethnic and mainstream American identities. These findings are inconsistent with much of the previous research (Book et al., 1998; Delva et al., 2005; Epstein et al,, 1996; Gil et al., 2000; and Vega et al., 1993), which has shown that high levels of acculturative status (acceptance of much of mainstream culture) are associated with an increased risk for substance use, while a more enculturated status (maintenance of a strong ethnic identity) is protective against substance abuse. The current findings suggest that over time the links between enculturation/acculturation and substance use is more complex than formerly believed. The study sample consisted of 300 adolescent juvenile offenders identified as Mexican-American males recruited from the Phoenix (Arizona) site of an ongoing longitudinal study of desistance from crime. Most were born in the United States and had parents who were born in the United States (61.6 percent). The sample completed seven assessments over a 36-month period. Acculturation and enculturation were measured with the Multigroup Ethnic Identity measure, which consists of 12 items that assess 2 dimensions of ethnic identity development, ethnic pride and feeling a sense of belonging within one's ethnic group. 1 figure, 2 tables, and 73 references

Date Published: January 1, 2008