Ethnic Labels and Ethnic Identity as Predictors of Drug Use among Middle School Students in the Southwest

Flavio Marsiglia, Stephen Kulis, Michael L. Hecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


This article explores differences in the self-reported drug use and exposure to drugs of an ethnically diverse group of 408 seventh-grade students from a large city in the southwest. We contrast the explanatory power of ethnic labels (African American, non-Hispanic White, Mexican American, and mixed ethnicity) and two dimensions of ethnic identity in predicting drug use. One dimension focuses on perceived ethnically consistent behavior, speech, and looks, while the other gauges a sense of ethnic pride. Ethnic labels were found to be somewhat useful in identifying differences in drug use, but the two ethnic identity measures, by themselves, did not generally help to explain differences in drug use. In conjunction, however, ethnic labels and ethnic identity measures explained far more of the differences in drug use than either did alone. The findings indicate that the two dimensions of ethnic identity predict drug outcomes in opposite ways, and these relations are different for minority students and non-Hispanic White students. Generally, African American, Mexican American, and mixed-ethnicity students with a strong sense of ethnic pride reported less drug use and exposure, while ethnically proud White students reported more. Ethnic minority students who viewed their behavior, speech, and looks as consistent with their ethnic group reported more drug use and exposure, while their White counterparts reported less. These findings are discussed, and recommendations for future research are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-48
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Research on Adolescence
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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