Ethnic Differences and the Closing of the Sex Gap in Alcohol Use Among College-Bound Students

Ethnic Differences and the Closing of the Sex Gap in Alcohol Use Among College-Bound Students

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Ethnic Differences and the Closing of the Sex Gap in Alcohol Use Among College-Bound Students William R. Corbin Yale University Ellen L. Vaughan Yale University School of Medicine Kim Fromme The University of Texas at Austin In this study, the authors used Web-based surveys to examine differences in alcohol use by sex and ethnicity and factors associated with these group differences among 2,241 college-bound students. A Sex ± Ethnicity interaction indicated that the sex gap was much larger for Latino than for Caucasian students. Although peer influence was important for both Caucasian and Latino students, family influences were significant only for Latino youths. The sex differences in drinking among Latino youths were largely explained by the combination of same-sex family member and same-sex peer drinking through values about the acceptability of drinking behavior. Among Caucasians, perceptions of peer behavior exerted a stronger influence on drinking behavior than among Latinos. These results suggest that interventions targeting peer influence are likely to be most effective for Caucasian students. In contrast, for Latinos, particularly Latina women, family characteristics may be an important target for prevention. Keywords: ethnic and sex differences, alcohol use, approval of drinking, Latinos, college-bound students Adolescent alcohol use remains a significant public health prob- lem, with 47% of 12th graders reporting alcohol use in the last 30 days (Johnston, O’Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2006b). His- torically, women have been socialized to drink less, and there is significant stigma associated with drinking for many women, particularly those who drink heavily (Blume & Zilberman, 2005). Adolescent drinking differs dramatically by sex, with male ado- lescents drinking more than female adolescents (Johnston et al., 2006b; Wallace et al., 2003). Sex differences in the 2-week prev- alence of five or more drinks, referred to as heavy episodic drink- ing , have tended to be even larger. Although sex differences in lifetime and 30-day prevalence have remained relatively stable over the last 20 years (Johnston, O’Malley, Bachman, & Schulen- berg, 2006a), the passage of time has seen a closing of the sex gap among 12th graders with respect to heavy episodic drinking (Johnston et al., 2006a; Wallace et al., 2003). The sex difference among 12th graders has decreased from 17% in 1985 to approxi- mately 11% in 2005. For men, there has been a steady decrease in heavy episodic drinking, whereas rates have been more stable for women, particularly in the last 10 years. A narrowing of the gap in alcohol use between men and women has been observed in a number of studies (Johnston et al., 2006a; Wallace et al., 2003), but this may not be equally true for all ethnic/racial groups. For 30-day prevalence of alcohol use, the sex difference among Caucasians, Asian Americans, and American Indians is approximately 7%, whereas African American youths show a sex difference of 11%. Among Latino youths, sex differ- ences tend to be the largest, with a 14% difference for Mexican
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Ethnic Differences and the Closing of the Sex Gap in Alcohol Use Among College-Bound Students

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