Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 475–487 | Cite as

Stress and Alcohol, Cigarette, and Marijuana Use Among Latino Adolescents in Families with Undocumented Immigrants

  • Martha I. Zapata Roblyer
  • Joseph G. Grzywacz
  • Richard C. Cervantes
  • Michael J. Merten
Original Paper


Families in which one or more members are undocumented immigrants experience unique hardships. Yet, little is known about stress and substance use among adolescents growing up in these families. The present study examined associations between two sources of adolescent stress (i.e., low parental involvement due to contextual constraints and family economic insecurity) and lifetime alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use among adolescents in families with undocumented members. The sample was comprised of 102 adolescents (10–18 years old) and one of his or her parents. Participants responded a survey in English or Spanish. Adolescent lifetime use of alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana was 51, 32.4, and 37.3 %, respectively. Chi-square analyses found no significant gender differences in lifetime substance use. Logistic regression models showed that adolescent stress due to hindered parental involvement increased the odds of both lifetime cigarette and marijuana use after controlling for gender, age, linguistic acculturation, familism, parental control, and negative peer affiliation. Being a girl increased the odds of lifetime alcohol use. Family economic stress was not associated with lifetime substance use. Results suggest that hindered parental involvement might be a stressor and a risk factor for cigarette and marijuana use among adolescents growing up in families with undocumented members. Because parents in these families are likely to be undocumented, policies that allow immigrants to apply for legal status could improve parents’ working conditions and facilitate parental involvement; in turn, such policies could decrease the risk for adolescent substance use among children of Latino immigrants.


Stress Substance use Latino adolescents Immigrant families Parental involvement 



This research was supported by a Grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA035976-01A1) to M. I. Zapata Roblyer

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Review Board of Oklahoma State University and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family ScienceOklahoma State UniversityTulsaUSA
  2. 2.Behavioral Assessment, Inc.Los AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Center for Family ResilienceOklahoma State UniversityTulsaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Family and Child SciencesFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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