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J Stud Alcohol. 2003 Mar;64(2):167-75.

Parental risk factors and social assimilation in alcohol dependence of Mexican Americans.

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Department of Psychiatry, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA.



This study examines the reciprocal relationship of social assimilation and four parental behavioral risk factors in the intergenerational development of alcohol abuse or dependence (AAD) among adults of Mexican origin in the United States. Whereas many studies have shown U.S. nativity and English language use are markers for enhanced risk of AAD among Mexican Americans, such studies have not examined the extent to which predisposing biobehavioral factors are conditioned by social assimilation in the United States.


Language use patterns as a proxy of cultural assimilation and length of time in the U.S. as a proxy for social assimilation were used to compare the distribution of parental behavioral factors (alcohol, drug abuse, depression and anxiety) and the influence of these factors on AAD onset in adult children of Mexican immigrants. Data were obtained from an epidemiologic field survey in Central California of 3,012 Mexican origin adults.


Complex effects structured by gender were found: parental behavioral risk factors predicted AAD onset; Mexican American adults born in the U.S. were much more likely than were immigrants to report parents with behavioral risk factors; women were more susceptible to the effects of parent risk factors in the context of social and cultural assimilation. Women required more total risk factor exposure, including parent risk factors, for AAD onset.


Reciprocal influences of parent risk factors on assimilation were found, suggesting that parental behavioral factor effects on AAD in adult children of Mexican Americans are subordinate to social and cultural assimilation.

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