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Mexican Adolescents' Intentions to Use Drugs: Gender Differences in the Protective Effects of Religiosity

Marcos Martinez

Marcos Martinez, Stephanie Ayers, Flavio F. Marsiglia. Arizona State University, United States

*Presented at the 2013 NIDA International Poster Session at the Society for Prevention (SPR) Conference

Introduction: Youth in Mexico are using drugs at comparable rates to youth in the US. Early substance use has various negative health and social consequences including poor academic performance, negative impact on physical and brain development, legal problems, and the potential for abuse of other drugs. However, less is known about the social processes that may act as protective and risk factors for substance use among adolescents in Mexico, particularly the potential effects of religiosity and gender norms in Mexican youth. This study examined, first, if there were gender differences in self-reported internal religiosity (faith) and external religiosity (participation in religious activities) and second, if these gender differences were associated with substance use intentions.

Methods: This study utilized a cross sectional sample of adolescents (Mean age =13.1; 54.8% female), from Jalisco, Mexico (N = 418), who participated in Mantente REAL, the Spanish language version of keepin’ it REAL (a SAMHSA model drug abuse prevention program that teaches drug resistance strategies). OLS regression was used for the analysis on five main measures; internal and external religiosity, and substance use intentions (alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana).

Findings: Gender was significantly associated with internal religiosity (b = -.24, p < .001), with females reporting higher levels of internal religiosity. Internal religiosity was also significantly associated with lower alcohol use intentions (b = -.21, p < .001) and cigarette use intentions (b = -.17, p < .01) for females. External religiosity was significantly associated with lower alcohol use intentions for males (b = -.08, p < .05) but greater cigarette use intentions for females (b = .09, p < .01).

Conclusions: Internal religiosity appears to be protective for females against intentions to use alcohol and cigarettes, while external religiosity appears to be protective for males but only for intentions to use alcohol. Religiosity may act as a proxy and as an enforcer of familial and societal gender expectations regarding adolescents’ pro-social behavior (e.g. abstaining or delaying drugs use). Because males are not as scrutinized as females regarding drinking and smoking, participating in religious’ sponsored activities (external religiosity) may provide males with access to pro-social networks. While we cannot infer causality, these results highlight the need to approach drug use prevention as a gendered phenomenon in Mexico and the importance of addressing cultural norms expressed through religiosity.

Abstract Year: 
Abstract Region: 
North America
Abstract Country: 
United States
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