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Generational status associated with drinking behaviors, consequences among immigrant college students

The immigrant paradox describes the phenomenon in which immigrants often report better health outcomes and behaviors than non-immigrants, despite the disadvantages faced by the former group. A new longitudinal study investigated whether the immigrant paradox extended to drinking patterns across college for immigrant students by examining whether (1) generational status was associated with alcohol use and negative alcohol-related consequences; (2) generational status was associated with longitudinal alcohol use trajectories from the first through fourth year of college; (3) the weekend (defined as Thursday through Saturday) exacerbated the risk of alcohol use equally across generations. Data from the University Life Study were obtained; this study followed participants (N = 744) for seven semesters. Each semester, participants completed one longer survey and up to 14 consecutive daily surveys about the previous day’s activities. Only data from participants who reported information about their parents’ and their own birthplaces during Semesters 2 and 3 were included in this study; there were 689 participants and 55,829 days in the final sample. Participants’ mean age was 18.5 years old (standard deviation [SD] = 0.43) at baseline and 21.5 years old (SD = 0.42) in Semester 7. The sample was racially and ethnically diverse, with 25.4% of participants identifying as Hispanic or Latinx, 15.5% as non-Hispanic African American or Black, 23.4% as non-Hispanic Asian American or Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 8.9% as non-Hispanic and multiracial. Nearly 17% (n = 114) were first-generation, 35.4% second-generation (n = 244), and 48.0% (n = 331) third-generation. Survey measures included abstaining from alcohol, binge drinking, wanting to get drunk, and experiencing negative consequences, as well as generational status, semester in college, whether the day being reported on occurred during the weekend or the week, gender, Greek membership, and race/ethnicity. The authors analyzed the data using multi-level mixed effects generalized linear models, in which days were nested within semesters that were nested within people. Results indicated first-generation participants were more likely to abstain (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.90, p = 0.01), less likely to binge drink (AOR = 0.46, p = 0.01) and intend to get drunk (AOR = 0.31, p = 0.001), and experienced fewer negative consequences (AOR = 0.56, p = 0.001) than third-generation participants. There were no significant interactions with time for any of the four outcomes; intergenerational differences were maintained throughout the study period. The weekend effect on drinking (versus not) was greater for second- and third-generation participants than for their first-generation peers. The marginal predictive mean difference for weekend versus weekday between the three groups were – 0.225(0.009), – 0.202(0.010), and – 0.133 (0.012), respectively. Negative consequences were higher on the weekend than during the week for all generational groups. Exploratory within-group analyses documented that Asian American participants were the only group in which being foreign-born was protective across all outcomes. Among Latinx participants, being born outside of the U.S. predicted fewer negative consequences for men, but not women. The authors cautioned that these results may not be generalizable to all groups of origin.

Take away: Across seven semesters of college, first-generation students exhibited healthier drinking behaviors and reported fewer negative consequences; however, this effect diminished somewhat on weekends, when all students were at greater risk of consequences and less likely to abstain from alcohol.

Greene, K.M. & Maggs, J.L. (2018). Immigrant paradox? Generational status, alcohol use, and negative consequences across college. Addictive Behaviors [published online ahead of print June 28, 2018] doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.06.030

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