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Discrimination, Historical Loss and Enculturation: Culturally Specific Risk and Resiliency Factors for Alcohol Abuse among American Indians

Les B. Whitbeck, Xiaojin Chen, Dan R. Hoyt, Gary W. Adams

Objective: This report investigates the effects of discrimination, historical loss and enculturation on meeting diagnostic criteria for 12-month alcohol abuse among American Indians who share a common culture in the upper Midwest. We introduce an empirical measure of historical loss and hypothesize that historical loss will mediate the effects of discrimination on meeting 12-month diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse. We also hypothesize that enculturation will be negatively associated with 12-month alcohol abuse and mediate or moderate the effects of discrimination. Method: A sample of 452 (351 women) American-Indian parents/caretakers (mean age: women = 39 years, men = 42 years) of children ages 10 to 12 years participated in diagnostic interviews for lifetime and 12-month alcohol abuse. The subjects’ perceptions of discrimination, historical loss and enculturation were also measured. Structural equation modeling was used to evaluate direct and potential mediating effects of latent constructs of enculturation (a resiliency factor) and historical loss (a risk factor) on the relationship between discrimination and meeting criteria for 12-month alcohol abuse. Results: Historical loss mediated the effects of discrimination on 12- month alcohol abuse among women. Enculturation neither mediated nor moderated the effects of discrimination but had an independent negative effect on alcohol abuse. In a combined model comprising both enculturation and historical loss, the effects of discrimination on 12- month alcohol abuse were mediated. Conclusions: This study presents important new evidence that historical loss affects American-Indian alcohol abuse. It also provides evidence for the resiliency effects of enculturation on alcohol abuse. (J. Stud. Alcohol 65: 409-418, 2004)