Applied Psychology OPUS

Risk-Taking Behaviors in First Generation Immigrant Adolescents: The Role of Acculturative Stress and Social Support

by Josephine M. Palmeri

Acculturative stress arises when immigrants’ experience difficulty in reconciling differences between their home and host cultures. Research shows that acculturative stress can lead to negative outcomes, yet limited research examines its effect on risk-taking behaviors. Theory and research also suggests that social support may buffer acculturative stress by providing a space where immigrants’ identities are validated. The present study examined (1) whether acculturative stress predicts risk taking behaviors in first generation immigrant 11th graders within an urban context (N = 189, female = 50.8%) and (2) whether social support moderates this relation. Acculturative stress was measured using Societal, Attitudinal, Familial, and Environmental-Revised-Short Form (Mena, Padilla, & Maldonado, 1987). Risk-taking behaviors were measured by Youth Risk Behavior Survey (Brener et al., 2002). Social support was measured by Support Networks Measure (Suárez-Orozco, Suárez-Orozco, & Todorova, unpublished). Pearson’s correlation analysis revealed that marijuana use was the only risk taking behavior related to acculturative stress or social support. In addition, hierarchal regression analysis showed that academic support significantly moderated the relation between acculturative stress and marijuana use. The results suggest that in times of high acculturative stress, immigrants with low academic support experience less marijuana usage.