Behavioral health in multiracial adolescents: the role of Hispanic/Latino ethnicity

Public Health Rep. Mar-Apr 2006;121(2):169-74. doi: 10.1177/003335490612100211.


Objectives: The purpose of the present study was twofold: (1) to determine whether adolescents who self-identify as multiracial have more adverse health behaviors than their monoracial counterparts, and (2) to examine whether the health behaviors of adolescents who are multiracial and Hispanic are more similar to those who identify as monoracial Hispanic or those who are multiracial and non-Hispanic.

Methods: Secondary analyses of data in a subsample from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 3,704 (27.2%) adolescents who identified as Hispanic/Latino only, multiracial Hispanic, or multiracial non-Hispanic were conducted. Regression analyses were conducted using SUDAAN for the complex sampling to test for differences in health behaviors (i.e., smoking, exercise, substance abuse, and suicide risk) among the three ethnicity/race groups.

Results: Each health behavior scale yielded significant between-group differences according to ethnic/racial identity: Hispanic/Latino adolescents scored significantly lower than both multiracial groups on the measure of cigarette smoking, lower than multiracial Hispanic adolescents on the substance abuse scale, and lower than multiracial non-Hispanic adolescents on the measure of exercise. The multiracial Hispanic group was also at marginally increased risk for suicide compared to the Hispanic/Latino group.

Conclusions: The results support the hypothesis that multiracial Hispanic adolescents have more behavioral health problems than monoracial Hispanic adolescents. The second hypothesis--that multiracial Hispanic adolescents are more similar to multiracial non-Hispanic adolescents--was also supported. The implications of these findings for the classification of Hispanic adolescents in terms of ethnicity and race in relation to health behaviors are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Male