Racial/ethnic Differences in the Influence of Cultural Values, Alcohol Resistance Self-Efficacy, and Alcohol Expectancies on Risk for Alcohol Initiation

Published in: Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, v. 26, no. 3, Sep. 2012, p. 460-470

Posted on RAND.org on August 06, 2012

by Regina A. Shih, Jeremy N. V. Miles, Joan S. Tucker, Annie Jie Zhou, Elizabeth J. D'Amico

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Research Question

  1. Do cultural values affect the likelihood that adolescents will begin to use alcohol?

Prior research has reported racial/ethnic differences in the early initiation of alcohol use, suggesting that cultural values that are central to specific racial/ethnic groups may be influencing these differences. This 1-year longitudinal study examines associations between two types of cultural values, parental respect (honor for one's parents) and familism (connectedness with family), both measured at baseline, and subsequent alcohol initiation in a sample of 6,054 (approximately 49% male, 57% Hispanic, 22% Asian, 18% non-Hispanic White, and 4% non-Hispanic Black) middle school students in Southern California. We tested whether the associations of cultural values with alcohol initiation could be explained by baseline measures of alcohol resistance self-efficacy (RSE) and alcohol expectancies. We also explored whether these pathways differed by race/ethnicity. In the full sample, adolescents with higher parental respect were less likely to initiate alcohol use, an association that was partially explained by higher RSE and fewer positive alcohol expectancies. Familism was not significantly related to alcohol initiation. Comparing racial/ethnic groups, higher parental respect was protective against alcohol initiation for Whites and Asians, but not Blacks or Hispanics. There were no racial/ethnic differences in the association between familism and alcohol initiation. Results suggest that cultural values are important factors in the decision to use alcohol and these values appear to operate in part, by influencing alcohol positive expectancies and RSE. Interventions that focus on maintaining strong cultural values and building strong bonds between adolescents and their families may help reduce the risk of alcohol initiation.

Key Findings

  • Overall, middle school adolescents who have higher respect for their parents are less likely to begin using alcohol.
  • Parental respect was most strongly protective for Whites and Asians, compared to Blacks or Hispanics.


  • Interventions that focus on maintaining strong cultural values and building strong bonds between adolescents and their families may help reduce the risk that adolescents will begin to drink.

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