Epidemiologists increasingly recognize the importance of examining biobehavioral factors along with well-established psychosocial correlates of alcohol use (e.g., low SES, high acculturative stress) in order to better understand the roots of health disparities among Hispanic adolescents. Examining the interaction of biomarkers for health-risk behavior (e.g., cortisol, testosterone, resting heart rate, digit ratio, and exposure to lead, manganese, cadmium) and known psychosocial correlates of alcohol use and health-risk behavior among adolescents has great potential to help experts identify and intervene with alcohol users at highest risk for engaging in co-occurring health-risk behaviors through culturally relevant and individualized interventions. Yet little is known about Hispanic adolescents’ willingness to participate in biobehavioral research. Although recent studies have begun to examine the behavioral and protective correlates of alcohol use among young Hispanics in the United States, systematic research on the biological and psychosocial factors linked with Hispanic adolescent alcohol use and health-risk behavior has yet to be conducted.
The overall objectives of this study are to explore the feasibility of conducting biobehavioral research with Hispanic adolescent alcohol users and to examine biological and psychosocial characteristics and other health-risk behaviors among Hispanic adolescent alcohol users. In pursuit of these objectives, this study will be carried out in two sequential phases. During Phase 1, focus groups and cognitive interviews with Hispanic adolescent alcohol users will be carried out to determine the feasibility and best protocol for conducting biobehavioral research with Hispanic adolescents. Because we are working with minors from historically marginalized groups who may be mistrustful of researchers and because collecting biological specimens can be particularly invasive, we want to ensure our research protocol will be acceptable and relevant to the target population prior to implementing the second phase of our study. Research in Phase 2 will build upon this formative research by collecting self-report survey data and biological measures from a clinic-based sample of Hispanic adolescents in Central Texas.
We expect this feasibility study to provide the empirical data needed to achieve our long-term goal: applying for NIH funding to (1) conduct a larger-scale epidemiological study of the biological and psychosocial characteristics and health-risk behaviors of Hispanic adolescent alcohol users, and (2) develop and test biobehavioral interventions for this population.