Hispanic teens who lack good parental connections are at an increased risk for early substance abuse, HIV contraction and dangerous sexual behaviors, according to a study from the University of Michigan.
Researchers feel improving parent-teen communication in Hispanic households could be one of the most important steps toward reducing the risky behavior seen among Hispanic teens in the United States.
“Effective parenting plays a key role in the development of Hispanic youth and may help to prevent problem behaviors, including substance use and sexual risk behaviors,” said David Cordova, assistant professor of social work, in a statement. “Other researchers have relied solely on one perspective of family functioning, not analyzing the data from two different perspectives, inclusive of both the parent and adolescent.”
At the conclusion of the research, which involved more than 700 Hispanic teens and their caregivers, experts evaluated the past 90-day and lifetime alcohol and illicit drug use, as well early sex initiation and unprotected sex of those participating in the study.
They found parents and teens who reported a greater difference in how they perceive the family context, were more likely to report lawful and illicit drug use both in their lifetime and the past 90 days, and having sex early in life and unprotected sex.
Hispanic teens who shared parental views on positive parenting, parental involvement, family cohesion, family communication, parental monitoring of peers and parent-adolescent communication were less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
Data also showed Hispanic teens who viewed cultural norms differently than their parents were in a higher risky behavior group compared to those who shared perceptions on language, food, family traditions, and the environment around them.
Importance of cultural ties in the lives of Hispanic teens
This is not the first time the University of Michigan has seen the importance of cultural ties in the lives of Hispanic teens; in an earlier study, the University found teens who actively believe in the Hispanic cultural value system known as familismo are less likely to be exposed to violence compared to teens who have a more lax family system.
The recent findings suggest introducing family-based intervention methods for Hispanic teenagers would be a useful way to help reduce the HIV risk in this population, as well as effectively curb the number of teens exploring dangerous substance abuse and sexual activities.
“To effectively engage Hispanic families in prevention programs, intervention developers need to consider the social, political and institutional barriers that have historically prevented this population from having quality and equal access to programs and services,”Cordova said. “By not doing so, we run the risk of blaming them.”
According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Hispanic teens are among the highest risk groups for HIV contraction, with the highest numbers of new HIV infections for young adults occurring among minorities.
The CDC also notes substance abuse tends to go hand-in-hand with risky sexual behavior, supporting the correlation seen by University of Michigan researchers. Not only would stronger family communication and bonding limit sexual risk, but it would subsequently limit the risk a teen would be involved with substance abuse.