The purpose of the current study was to examine the effects of demographics, individual and eco-processes (e.g., drug use, peer drug use involvement, and school connectedness) on initiation of DUI behaviors between US-born and immigrant Hispanic young adults. Findings suggest that 2nd
generation US-born Hispanic youth and 3rd
generation and beyond US-born Hispanic youth were more likely to engage in DUI when compared to immigrant Hispanic youth, even after accounting for demographic variables. Findings also suggest that US-born Hispanic youth engaged in more risky behaviors when compared with immigrant Hispanic youth. As expected, the “immigrant paradox” emerged in the present study, as immigrant Hispanic young adults were significantly less likely to report DUI initiation when compared to US-born Hispanic young adults. This is consistent with previous studies suggesting that the prevalence of DUI is higher among US-born Hispanics. Our findings are also consistent with Caetano et. al.'s (2008)
argument that this finding “contradicts the common perception that foreign-born Hispanics are more likely to engage in DUI because of their lack of knowledge about DUI laws in the United States” (Caetano, Ramisetty-Mikler, et al., 2008a
In addition to differences in DUI behaviors by nativity status, eco-processes (such as peer drug use) were associated with DUI. We found that US-born Hispanic youth were more likely to associate with peers who use marijuana when compared with immigrant counterparts. The finding that peer substance use was directly related to DUI is consistent with much of the existing literature on non-Hispanic white youth and Hispanic youth (Beck, et al., 2008
; Caetano & Raspberry, 2001
; Grube & Voas, 1996
). Additionally, these findings provide support for the hypothesis that cultural processes operate differently for immigrant and US born Hispanic youth, resulting in higher levels of risky behavior (in this case, DUI) among US-born adolescents.
Unexpectedly, we found that perceived neighborhood safety was associated with increased risk for DUI initiation. One might hypothesize that those who reported feeling safe in their neighborhood had a higher social capital (e.g., were of higher SES and living in neighborhoods with access to alcohol and cars). This finding provide support for Caetano and colleagues conclusion that “US-born Hispanics are less socially disadvantaged than immigrants and most probably have more access to cars, have more disposable income to buy alcohol, and are less intimidated by contact with the police” (Caetano, Ramisetty-Mikler, et al., 2008a
). Future studies should examine the role of social capital, education, SES, social networks and other neighborhood characteristics on the risk or protective effect of DUI. Such studies can provide support for previous studies by Caetano and colleagues who found a positive association between education, income, and alcohol consumption (Caetano, Ramisetty-Mikler, et al., 2008a
In addition to the role of eco-processes, individual-level risk factors, such as gender and drug use were also associated with an increased risk for DUI. Regardless of nativity, men reported a higher prevalence of DUI, providing further support of gender differences in the rates of DUI (Nyaronga, Greenfield, & McDaniel, 2009
; O'Malley & Johnston, 2007
). After controlling for gender differences, marijuana use was another factor associated with an increased risk of DUI. Marijuana users were two times more likely to report initiation of DUI as young adults. This finding highlights the relevance of investigating a constellation of factors associated with impaired driving (in addition to alcohol use). Impaired driving, often associated with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels above .08, may interact with other substances (e.g., marijuana) and contribute to drug-impaired driving.
The current study has several limitations that are worth noting. First, it uses a self-report measure of DUI and does not permit examination of DUI frequency. Second, the self-report survey design may also result in some misclassification among Hispanics born in of Puerto Rico, as the instrument does not clearly delineate whether these individuals should identify as U.S. born or Immigrant. Third, the current study is limited in its ability to assess behavioral and cultural attitudes related to the acceptance or rejection DUI. Fourth, data on DUI behaviors were collected between 2001 and 2002. In the past decade, the prevalence of alcohol use has declined among all adolescents (including Hispanics) (Johnston, O'Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2009
). However, Hispanics account for the greatest proportion of alcohol-impaired driver deaths among all age groups (Roudsari, et al., 2009
). Fifth, the patterns of drug use may also have changed in the past decade, with drugs such as ecstasy, prescription medications, and methamphetamines becoming popular in recent years (Johnston, et al., 2009
). Therefore, the current study might underestimate the effects of other drugs and their association with DUI. Finally, in the past decade, there has been massive migration from Latin America to the US, and this cohort of newer immigrants may not necessarily be reflective of the older immigrants. More recent cohorts of nationally representative Hispanic samples (with data on family, school, and peer processes), however, are not available.
Despite its limitations, the current study has several strengths. First, it uses a nationally representative and longitudinal study to examine DUI among Hispanics, while taking into account nativity status, country of origin, and other relevant demographic variables. Second, it allows for the evaluation of the effects of risk factors at multiple levels of influence (including demographic, eco-processes, and individual-level) during adolescence on the risk of DUI behaviors among Hispanic young adults. Future studies should investigate the mechanisms and processes underlying gender differences in drinking and driving behaviors among Hispanic men and women. More importantly, future studies should examine how to develop intervention programs to change attitudes that promote risk-taking behaviors such as drinking and driving. Policies to deter DUI should be emphasized to encourage prevention of risky driving.
Structural and policy interventions (such as increasing alcohol taxes) may also be beneficial in reducing the prevalence of DUI behaviors by reducing alcohol access and availability. Findings also suggest that 3rd generation and beyond Hispanics may be in greater need of intervention given that the incidence of DUI are higher in this population than in 1st or 2nd generation Hispanic youth. Future research should seek to determine whether different interventions are needed for these different Hispanic subgroups.
The current study has important implications for the criminal justice system and its response to drinking and driving among Hispanic populations. Considering that Hispanics tend to be disproportionately heavy drinkers (particularly men) which subsequently increases their probability of engaging in risk-taking behaviors such as DUI (Ferguson, Burns, Fiorentino, Williams, & Garcia, 2002
), in-prison and community treatment programs should be accessible to those who demonstrate alcohol misuse or abuse to reduce their likelihood of initiating or continuing DUI. There has been evidence to suggest that such intervention programs aimed at young minorities can be effective (Wells-Parker & Williams, 2002
In conclusion, the current study examined the effects of risk and protective factors on DUI behaviors among Hispanic young adults. Examination of several risk factors highlights gender differences in the rates of DUI in that men reported higher rates of DUI when compared with women, regardless of nativity. Findings emphasize the role of marijuana use on the prevalence of DUI among Hispanic young adults, and the need to develop intervention and policies targeting impaired driving. Overall, the current study provides support for the role of eco-processes during adolescence, such as peer drug use involvement and neighborhood context, in addition to individual-level risk factors to explain DUI among Hispanic young adults.