Social Environmental Factors that Influence Adolescent Substance Misuse on the U.S.-Mexico Border
AuthorSalerno Valdez, Elizabeth
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIntroduction: Mexican-origin adolescents living on the U.S.-Mexico border experience higher prevalence rates of substance misuse-related problems compared to non-border Mexican-origin populations and their non-Hispanic white counterparts. The unique environmental context of the U.S.-Mexico border may exacerbate the risk of substance misuse for Mexican-origin adolescents residing there. Exposure to nearby drug trafficking, cross-border mobility, increased availability of alcohol and tobacco, and high unemployment may contribute to these comparatively higher rates. However, the sociocultural characteristics of the border region may be protective against substance misuse among adolescents, such as the presence of Mexican culture, social support, and religiosity. Methods: The author and a local youth health coalition engaged in Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) using Photovoice and qualitative methods to examine the perceived factors that increase risk of, or protect against, substance misuse among adolescents living at the border. Photovoice findings were used to develop the Border Adolescent Substance Use Survey (BASUS), which was then administered at the community’s high school. Logistic regression evaluated the associations between the socioenvironmental risk factors and tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use in the past 30 days, respectively. Results: Photovoice findings identified novel risk factors for adolescent substance misuse on the border included the normalization of drug trafficking, normalization of substance misuse, and cross-border access to substances. Novel protective factors included living in a close-knit binational community and having strong binational family and social support systems. BASUS results indicated that border community and immigration stress was related to both past 30-day tobacco and alcohol use. Perceived disordered neighborhood stress also was associated with past 30-day alcohol use. The normalization of drug trafficking was associated with past 30-day marijuana use. Conclusion: This mixed methods study fills a critical gap in knowledge regarding the factors that influence adolescent substance misuse on the border, as well as provides epidemiological data on an under-studied population. The examination of these protective and risk factors provides a more complete understanding of the experiences of youth living on the border and informs the field of the importance of considering the border experience for future prevention and risk reduction efforts with adolescents living on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Degree ProgramGraduate College