Substance use, religion and Mexican adolescent intentions to use drugs

Marcos J. Martinez, Flavio Marsiglia, Stephanie L. Ayers, Bertha L. Nuno-Gutierrez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


Cultural and social norms contribute to gender differences in substance use and health outcomes. Religiosity is an important facet of Mexican culture that reinforces familial and societal gender norms and behaviors, which may result in aspects of religiosity having differential protective effects on intentions to use substances for male and female youth. Applying an ecodevelopmental perspective, this article examines gender differences in religiosity and its subsequent impact on intentions to use substances in a cross-sectional sample of Mexican adolescents (N = 390; M = 13.01) from Jalisco, Mexico. A bi-national team of researchers from universities in Mexico and in the US conducted this study in accordance with the Institutional Review Board at both universities and followed policies for protecting human subjects. Using OLS regression, a significant relationship between gender and internal (β = .23, p < .05) and external religiosity (β = .31, p < .05) was found. This association was stronger for males. Internal religiosity was protective for females against intentions to use alcohol (β = -.23, p < .001) and cigarettes (β = -.18, p < .01), while external religiosity was protective for males against intentions to use alcohol (β = -.11, p < .01). Despite rapidly changing cultural norms, most girls in the sample appear to be adhering to more traditional conceptions of gender roles that could be reinforced at least in part by internal religiosity. Boys, on the other hand, appear to be benefiting more from external religiosity and organized religion's sponsored environments and networks. Given the role of the family in the transmission of culture to youth, social work implications from this study suggest the need to approach substance use prevention with Mexican youth, and perhaps with Mexican heritage youth in the US, from a gendered and culturally informed perspective that recognizes the protective facets of religiosity for boys and girls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPublic Health, Social Work and Health Inequalities
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781634828505
ISBN (Print)9781634828383
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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