Perceived Discrimination, Peer Influence and Sexual Behaviors in Mexican American Preadolescents
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Both discrimination and sexual health disparities have significant negative health implications for Latina/o preadolescent youth, including negative mental health outcomes, STIs/HIV, unintended pregnancy, and ongoing poverty. Studying these links within this population, therefore, has significant public health relevance, both in terms of promoting sexual health in general as well as serving the specific needs of Latina/o youth. This study explored the relationship between perceived discrimination, peer influence and sexual behaviors among 438 Mexican American preadolescents in the Southwest United States (55.3 % male). Additionally, this study examined whether psychological distress, substance use, and sexual motives mediated and whether gender moderated these relations. A multiple-group path analysis of the analytical model was performed to examine the hypothesized relations between perceived discrimination, peer influence, psychological distress, substance use, sexual motives and sexual behaviors. The findings indicated that perceived discrimination was directly linked to sexual behaviors among participants and indirectly linked via substance use. The findings also indicated that peer influence was indirectly linked to sexual behaviors via substance use among participants and via sexual motives among boys. This study underscores the importance of substance use in the perceived discrimination, peer influence and sexual behavior link in Mexican American preadolescents. Additionally, it highlights the importance of sexual motives in the link between peer influence and sexual behaviors of Mexican American boys.
KeywordsMexican American preadolescents Perceived discrimination Peer influence Sexual motives Substance use Sexual behaviors
Support for this project was provided, in part, by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health Grant to the first author under Grant Number JRG-205. Special thanks to the principal and school counselors from the partnering middle school, research assistants and to all the students who participated.
D.S. conceived of this study, participated in the design and data collection and analysis and drafted the manuscript. T.W. helped in the data analysis, interpretation of the data and review of the manuscript. E.H. helped by conducting updated annotated bibliographies and review of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Conflict of interest
The authors report no conflicts of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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