Objectives: It is widely believed that risk factors identified in previous epidemiologic studies accurately predict adolescent drug use. Comparative studies are needed to determine how risk factors vary in prevalence, distribution, sensitivity, and pattern across the major US ethnic/racial groups.
Methods: Baseline questionnaire data from a 3-year epidemiologic study of early adolescent development and drug use were used to conduct bivariate and multivariate risk factor analyses. Respondents (n = 6760) were sixth- and seventh-grade Cuban, other Hispanic, Black, and White non-Hispanic boys in the 48 middle schools of the greater Miami (Dade County) area.
Results: Findings indicate 5% lifetime illicit drug use, 4% lifetime inhalant use, 37% lifetime alcohol use, and 21% lifetime tobacco use, with important intergroup differences. Monotonic relationships were found between 10 risk factors and alcohol and illicit drug use. Individual risk factors were distributed disproportionately, and sensitivity and patterning of risk factors varied widely by ethnic/racial subsample.
Conclusions: While the cumulative prevalence of risk factors bears a monotonic relationship to drug use, ethnic/racial differences in risk factor profiles, especially for Blacks, suggest differential predictive value based on cultural differences.