Latino Immigrants' Biological Parents' Histories of Substance Use Problems in Their Country of Origin Predict Their Pre- and Post-Immigration Alcohol Use Problems

Subst Abus. 2015;36(3):257-63. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2014.932886. Epub 2014 Jun 24.


Background: No studies to date have assessed whether recent young adult (aged 18-34) Latino immigrants' biological parents' histories of substance use problems (BPHSUP) in their country of origin predict their alcohol use problems at pre- and post-immigration to the United States (US).

Methods: BPHSUP in their country of origin were assessed via interviews conducted by bilingual Latino researchers with recent Latino immigrants primarily from Cuba and Central and South America recruited through respondent-driven sampling at the time of their immigration to southeastern US. Three waves of data were collected to document Latino immigrants' severity of alcohol use problems at pre-immigration and 2 annual post-immigration follow-up assessments. BPHSUP+/- status was used as a predictor of Latinos' (N = 452; 45.8% female, 54.2% male) Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) scores at pre- and post-immigration with age, education, and income as covariates as wells as odds ratios for AUDIT classifications of hazardous use, harmful use, and dependence.

Results: BPHSUP+ status predicted Latino immigrants' higher AUDIT scores pre- and post-immigration by gender (P < .01) compared with Latino immigrants of BPHSUP- status, controlling for age, education, and income. BPHSUP+ status predicted odds ratios of 3.45 and 2.91 for AUDIT alcohol dependence classification for men and women, respectively.

Conclusions: This study documents that BPHSUP+/- status in their country of origin predict their young adult Latino offspring's severity of alcohol use problems pre- and post-immigration. These results may inform (1) community-based health care providers to screen recent young adult Latino immigrants for their BPHSUP+/- status and severity of alcohol use problems to redirect trajectories away from alcohol use disorders toward more normative post-immigration outcomes through culturally relevant prevention services and (2) future research advantages of differential susceptibility theory. Implications for future research and the need for replication studies in other geographic regions of the US are discussed.

Keywords: Latino; alcohol dependence; differential susceptibility theory; heritability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / ethnology*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Health*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Latin America / ethnology
  • Male
  • Parents* / psychology
  • Southeastern United States / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology*
  • Young Adult