Objective: Inner-city black and Hispanic adolescents might be at great risk for alcohol use. Yet the etiology of drinking among these adolescents receives little attention. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of social influences and problem behavior on alcohol use among Hispanic and black adolescents. The impact of these factors was also tested separately for girls and boys to determine the differences in etiology of alcohol use depending on gender.
Method: A large sample of black and Hispanic seventh-grade students (N = 4,847, 52% female) self-reported alcohol use, demographic characteristics (gender, family structure, age, ethnicity and socioeconomic status), social influences to drink (peer norms, adult norms, their friends' use, their mother's use, their father's use, their siblings' use, and perceived availability of alcohol), and problem behaviors (cigarette smoking, marijuana use, getting into trouble). Teams of three to five data collectors administered the questionnaire following standardized protocol. These data were collected in class during a regular 40-minute period.
Results: Logistic regressions indicated that social influences to drink from friends, peers, and family and problem behaviors including cigarette smoking and marijuana use were related to alcohol use across and within gender. Getting into trouble predicted drinking for boys but not girls.
Conclusions: Based on these findings, adolescent alcohol prevention programs need to include an awareness of the many social influences to drink, modify incorrectly perceived peer norms for drinking, involve family members in the prevention program and address an array of problem behaviors within one prevention intervention.