Gender differences in drinking behavior among Latino/a heavy drinkers

Christina S. Lee, Felipe Castro, Mariana E. Nicholls, Bridget O'Connor, Sarah Marosi, Suzanne M. Colby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: In the United States (U.S.), higher levels of acculturation have been associated with higher rates of heavy alcohol use more consistently among Latino women than among Latino men. This paper explores mechanisms underlying the link between acculturation and alcohol use among Latino/as in the U.S. We examine alcohol use expectancies and motives from the perspectives of the social cognitive theory of gender development. Methods: Qualitative narratives data from six focus groups of individuals (total n = 37), who met criteria for heavy drinking (4/5 drinks/occasion for females/males), were examined separately by gender (18 females; 19 males). Coded narratives data were analyzed using a framework that compared lives in Latin America and in the U.S. Emergent themes were analyzed for their consistency across genders. Gender-specific themes were identified. Results: Changes in family structure and the loss of social networks prompted divergent patterns of drinking among men and women, such that relative to patterns in their countries of origin, drinking among Latino women increased while it decreased among Latino men. Men and women reported drinking to replace missing social bonds, a motive not frequently reported in the literature on drinking motives. Women who engaged in heavy-drinking nonetheless described traditional gender role expectations after U.S. arrival. Only men endorsed positive alcohol expectancies in Latin America. Women reported drinking to alleviate psychological distress in the U.S. Conclusions: Pre and post-immigration comparisons revealed different drinking trajectories among men and women after immigration to the U.S. These patterns appeared to be influenced by new social contexts and changes in familial expectations regarding women's roles. Future inquiry that examines gender-specific themes in alcohol expectancies and motives unique to the experience of immigration, is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-86
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Acculturation
  • Gender differences
  • Heavy drinking
  • Latino/a

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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