Objectives: Adolescent smoking has been associated with stressful life events. However, few studies have examined the associations between stress, smoking intentions, and smoking behavior among a multiethnic sample of adolescents.
Methods: We compiled a checklist of stressful life events relevant to multiethnic youth and administered it to 1,074 sixth-grade students in urban Los Angeles.
Results: The most frequently reported stressful events were similar across ethnic groups and generations in the USA: test taking, chores, and arguments with friends. The events reported as the most severe were disturbances in family life, such as: death, arguments between parents, and illness or injury. Whites and Latinos had reported higher levels of ever smoking and intentions to smoke than Asian/Pacific Islanders (PIs). On the positive family-related events scale Latinos scored higher than did whites or Asian/PIs. Whites scored higher than Latinos or Asian/PIs on both negative peer-related and negative personal-related events. Associations were observed between total stress, stressful life events, and smoking behavior and intentions to smoke. Total stress was associated ith ever smokers, smoking intentions within the next year and in high school over the entire sample. Negative peer-related events were associated with intention to smoke within the next year, among Latinos. Among Asian/PIs negative peer-related events were associated with intention to smoke within the next year and in high school. Negative school-related events were significantly associated with ever smoking and intentions to smoke in the next year and marginally associated with intentions to smoke in high school among children born in the USA whose parents were also born in the USA. Negative peer-related events and positive personal-related events were significantly associated with intentions to smoke in the next year among children born in the USA whose parents were immigrants.
Conclusions: Results suggest that negative peer- and school-related events may lead to increased risk of smoking behavior and intentions to smoke among multicultural adolescents.