Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Wendy Kliewer

Second Advisor

Rosalie Corona


The purpose of the current studies was to identify messages that Latino parents communicate to their offspring about the use of legal and illegal drugs and to determine associations between parental messages and substance use outcomes. Previous research has identified parent-child communication as protective against tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use. However, most of these studies have failed to examine the specific messages communicated and those that have focused almost exclusively on non-Hispanic Caucasians. Study 1 identified messages that Latino parents communicate to their offspring regarding legal and illegal drugs through two focus groups with Latino college students (N = 7; ages 18-25). Many parental messages expressed in the focus groups were consistent with previous research. However, two distinct messages emerged from the focus groups: abstaining from substance use for religious reasons and because it would be disrespectful to parents. Results of qualitative analyses were combined with previous research identifying parental messages about substance use to create a 75-item questionnaire assessing the degree to which parents conveyed identified message types. Following the first study, an additional sample of Latino emerging adults (N = 222) was recruited from Virginia Commonwealth University, other Virginia colleges, and organizations with primarily Latino members in order to examine the psychometric properties of the newly developed questionnaire and to assess the associations between parental messages and substance use outcomes in Study 2. Principal Components Analysis (PCA) produced six components: Rewards & Punishments, Religious Beliefs, Never Addressed, Respecting Parents, Focus on Yourself, Negative Consequences of Use. These resulting components then were examined in association with substance use outcomes while also controlling for participants’ age, sex, religious commitment, familism, and acculturation. Results suggest that parental messages about substance use are differentially associated with substance use outcomes, with some messages appearing to be protective and other messages associated with increased risk. Further, select parental messages were strongly associated with the substance use patterns of Latino emerging adults while some messages were not related or marginally related to substance use. Specifically, messages focused on the negative consequences of use were most protective, while messages stressing rewards and punishments and respecting parents were associated with increased risk. These data indicate that attention to the specific messages parents communicate to their offspring regarding substance use, and not merely the frequency or openness of communication, is important. Implications, next steps for future research, and limitations of the current study are discussed.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2011