Birthplace Influences Outcome of Alcohol Treatment for Hispanic Adolescents

Alcohol and drug use are widespread among American adolescents, but even more prevalent among Hispanic youth in the United States. “Familias Unidas is a Hispanic-specific, family based, substance use (including alcohol and drugs) preventive intervention,” said David Cordova of the Center for Family Studies at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. “Consistent with Hispanic cultural values, Familias Unidas places parents in positions of leadership and expertise in helping to prevent alcohol and drug use in youth by increasing positive parenting, family support of the adolescent, parental involvement, general parent-adolescent communication and parent-adolescent communication regarding substance use.”

The program has been quite effective overall, but has not been scrutinized closely. “Thus, to tailor interventions aimed to maximize efficacy in Hispanic populations, there remains the need to examine moderating factors such as nativity status, which has been shown to moderate intervention effects in other interventions,” said Cordova. “Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate whether the effects of Familias Unidas, compared to community practice, on Hispanic adolescent alcohol and drug use vary by nativity status (i.e., U.S.-born and foreign-born).”

Cordova and his colleagues assessed over 200 Hispanic American adolescents, half of whom had been born in the U.S., and half of whom had not. He found that nativity status had a direct effect on treatment outcome. “Specifically, whereas intervention effects on alcohol use were significant for U.S.-born Hispanics, no effects were found for foreign-born Hispanics.” Cordova added, “Although from baseline to 6-month follow up, parental monitoring of peers was significant for both U.S.-born and foreign-born participants, these effects were not sustained long-term for foreign-born participants.” He concluded by saying, “Thus, preventive interventions tailored for foreign-born participants may seek to further highlight the importance of parental peer monitoring within the context of the U.S., as well as to help foreign-born parents retain country-of-origin values (e.g., parental monitoring of peers), as they learn to navigate and balance U.S. cultural norms.”

Cordova, D., Huang, S., Pantin, H., & Prado, G. (2011, December 5). Do the Effects of a Family Intervention on Alcohol and Drug Use Vary by Nativity Status?. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026438

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • Yolanda


    December 13th, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    Making the family front and center when it comes to treatment of alcohol abuse, particularly in Hispanic families can be so important when it comes to the success of the treatment. Finding ways to connect with individuals in ways that are bound to be meaningful to them could help make all the difference in the world when it comes to rates of success.

  • Kayla S

    Kayla S

    December 14th, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    Wouldn’t the standard of care be the same in any country that knew the importance of treating alcohol abuse? I mean I think that this is great, but it sounds to me like the treatment plan ahould always include a lot of parental involvement and intervention. Youth always look to parents for guidance whether they are willing to admit it or not, so getting them in there and giving them the tools that they need to navigate certain situations is going to be quite beneficial.

  • L.J


    December 14th, 2011 at 11:13 PM

    Cultural background plays a major role in determining such things.Where you spend your early years has a lot to do with how you would react to such a program.More reason to set up better facilities for immigrants and minority groups to help them better.

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