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Cigarette Smoking and Stress-Coping among Latino Youth

Institution: University of Southern California
Investigator(s): Rachel Grana, M.P.H.
Award Cycle: 2008 (Cycle 17) Grant #: 17DT-0190 Award: $60,000
Subject Area: Tobacco-Use Prevention and Cessation
Award Type: Dissertation Awards

Initial Award Abstract
California has one of the largest populations of Hispanic/Latinos in the U.S. (35.9%) and nationally the Hispanic/Latino population is the most rapidly growing ethnic minority group in the United States. In California, the past month smoking prevalence among Hispanic/Latino youth in the past 4 years has flattened, with 14.3% reporting past 30 day use in 2006 compared with 14.0% in 2002. Despite the many studies investigating the reasons for smoking among adolescents, research about the specific psychological and cultural factors contributing to adolescent cigarette smoking among Hispanic/Latino youth is less conclusive. Late adolescence in general is a stressful developmental period during which individuals tend to struggle with identity formation (including independence from parents and taking on adult roles (e.g., marriage, parenting, and career). Adolescents who are moving from adolescence to young adulthood are in the period called emerging adulthood (18-25 years). For Hispanic/Latino adolescents in particular, adolescence also involves stress due to navigating between two cultures: their culture of origin and the dominant U.S. culture. As Hispanics/Latino adolescents try to establish their independence and ethnic identity they may experience stress from cultural factors such as acculturating to U.S. culture and developmental factors such as taking on adult roles. The experience of this stress may result in unhealthy internalizing (e.g., depression) or externalizing (e.g., smoking cigarettes) behaviors. Coping strategies employed by the adolescent to deal with stress may help to reduce the effects of stress, such as problem-focused coping, thus producing less cigarette smoking. However, certain coping strategies, such as avoidant or emotion-focused strategies are associated with higher levels of cigarette smoking.

This project uses two studies to explore the effect of coping strategies on the relationship between two stressors involved in identity formation (acculturating to U.S. culture and emerging adulthood roles and responsibilities) and depression and cigarette smoking in Hispanic/Latino adolescents in Southern California. The studies involve two school-based samples, one of 634 continuation high school students and one of 1947 students attending regular high schools in Southern California. Statistical analyses will be conducted to determine the direct relationship between acculturative stress, perceptions of emerging adulthood as stressful and cigarette use. Also analyses will be performed to determine if coping style moderates the relationship between the stressors and cigarette use. In addition, analyses will be performed to determine if depression mediates the relationship between identity formation stressors and cigarette smoking. As these relationships may differ among males and females, we will conduct analyses to explore gender effects on all the relationships proposed.

These two studies investigate psychological, social and cultural determinants of cigarette smoking among an understudied population, Hispanic/Latino adolescents, in Southern California. The findings are critical to improving and informing the development of future prevention programs for ethnically diverse adolescents. Since adolescence is a developmental period characterized by experimentation with risk-taking behaviors, yet is also a period of increased autonomy and experimenting with adult roles, it is important to prevent smoking initiation and regular smoking in order to prevent the morbidity and mortality caused by smoking. Given the projected doubling of the Hispanic population over the next 33 years, it is of increasingly vital importance to understand the process of social and cultural identity formation and its relationship to cigarette smoking among adolescent Hispanics/Latinos in order to develop smoking prevention strategies that are effective with this group.