A cross-national comparison of youth risk behaviors in Latino secondary school students living in El Salvador and the USA

Andrew Springer, Steve Kelder, Pamela Orpinas, Elizabeth Baumler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objectives. As Latin Americans' exposure to the USA increases through migration patterns and US political and economic ties to their countries of origin, they become susceptible to adopting not only the cultural expressions of the USA such as fashion, but also the health-related behaviors of the US population. In assessing potential health risks for Salvadoran youth that may result from the connection between Latin Americans and the USA, this study compared the prevalence of health risk behaviors from four behavior domains (aggression and victimization, depression and suicidal ideation, substance use, and sexual behavior) between Salvadoran and US Latino secondary school students aged 14-17 years. Design. A secondary analysis was performed on two 1999 cross-sectional survey data. In the USA, results were based on 1,063 Latino high school students who answered the nationally representative Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In El Salvador, results were based on 793 public secondary school students who answered a local YRBS survey conducted in coordination with the Ministry of Education of El Salvador. Results. The prevalence rates for aggression/ victimization and for depression and suicidal ideation behaviors were similar between Salvadoran and US Latino adolescents. Substance use prevalence, however, was 10-40% higher for US Latino adolescents. While the prevalence of sexual intercourse was higher among US Latino youth (between 13 and 27% higher, depending on age), the prevalence of condom use was lower among sexually active Salvadoran youth (between 11 and 42% lower, depending on age). Conclusions. In the context of the transnationalization of the Salvadoran population, with potential for increased influence of the USA in Salvadoran culture, these differences in risk behavior are important for targeting effective interventions for Latino adolescents in El Salvador and in the USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-88
Number of pages20
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescents
  • Aggression
  • Cross-National
  • Drugs
  • El Salvador
  • Latin America
  • Risk Behavior
  • Sexual Behaviors
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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