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Substance use and behavior disorders in Puerto Rican Youth: A Migrant Family Study
  1. Kathleen Merikangas1,
  2. Kevin Conway2,
  3. Joel Swendsen3,
  4. Vivian Febo4,
  5. Lisa Dierker5,
  6. Wendy Brunetto6,
  7. Marilyn Stolar6,
  8. Glorisa Canino4
  1. 1 NIH, United States;
  2. 2 NIDA, United States;
  3. 3 CNRS, France;
  4. 4 University of San Juan, Puerto Rico;
  5. 5 Wesleyan University, United States;
  6. 6 Yale University, United States
  1. E-mail: joel.swendsen{at}


Background: Hispanics in the U.S. have higher rates of substance use disorders than similar ethnic groups residing in Latin American nations, and recent evidence suggests an increase in substance use among U.S. Hispanic youth. This investigation examines the familial and societal correlates of this increase by comparing Puerto Rican families residing in the Mainland U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Methods: Using migrant and controlled family study methods, 279 probands in San Juan and 236 probands in New Haven were recruited from treatment clinics and the general community to compose four diagnostic groups: drug abuse/dependence; alcohol abuse/dependence; psychiatric controls; unaffected controls. Eight hundred six biological offspring aged 12-17 were then directly interviewed.

Results: Total rates for alcohol use were greater among San Juan Youth compared to their migrant counterparts. By contrast, U.S. migrant adolescents were more likely to use cannabis. A strong association was observed between parental and child substance use at both sites, particularly for boys, and offspring of probands with drug use disorders were at greatest risk for substance use and related disorders. Familial aggregation patterns did not vary substantially by site.

Conclusions: Despite societal influences on the magnitude and patterns of substance use in migrant youth, the consistent influence of parental disorders across sites reveals that the cross-generational transmission of substance use disorders in prior studies extends to Hispanic families and is an important factor to consider in the development of prevention strategies.

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