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Interactions Between Race/Ethnicity and Psychosocial Correlates of Preteen Alcohol Use Initiation Among Seventh Grade Students in an Urban Setting

Robert M. Bossarte, Monica H. Swahn

Objective: The purpose of this study was to test differences in the associations between race and ethnicity and early alcohol use initiation among adolescents from an urban school district in a high-risk area. Method: In 2004, a total of 1,350 white, black, and Hispanic seventh graders completed questionnaires assessing their alcohol use, demographic characteristics, family characteristics, peer behaviors, and community exposures. Logistic regression analyses examined correlates and potential effect modifiers for the entire group of seventh grade students and separately for white, black, and Hispanic students. Results: Although there were common correlates of early alcohol use initiation for the three groups, significant interactions between race, ethnicity, and early alcohol initiation were also identified. Specifically, black youth who witnessed violence in their homes before the age of 10 years were nearly three times (adjusted odds ratio [OR adj] = 2.73; 95% confidence interval [CI] : 1.37-5.42) more likely to initiate the use of alcohol before the age of 13 years. Conversely, white students who reported higher levels of social support at school were approximately 50% (OR adj = 0.51; CI: 0.28-0.95) less likely to begin drinking alcohol before the age of 13 years. Conclusions: These findings highlight the importance of examining risk factors for early alcohol use for different racial and ethnic groups separately and for considering these differences when designing and implementing prevention programs. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 69: 660-665, 2008)