Alcohol Abuse and Acculturation Among Puerto Ricans in the United States. A Sociological Study

Author: Diaz, Hector Luis and Watts, Thomas D.
Diaz, Hector Luis and Watts, Thomas D.
This book details an exploratory research study that was conducted to examine the associations between acculturation, stress, alcohol consumption and other variables in a sample of 100 Puerto Rican alcohol users residing in the state of Massachusetts. The study relied on a cross sectional survey and a non probability sample. The data collected included acculturation scores, acculturation stress scores, data on the use of alcohol and other drugs, and demographic information. Comparisons were made among sample subjects based on gender, place of birth, acculturation levels, and educational levels.

No statistically significant differences were found among subjects in the low, partial and high acculturation categories in terms of their levels of acculturative stress, or their frequency and amount of alcohol consumption. Significant associations were found, however, between stress and alcohol and illegal drug use. Findings suggest that the associations between alcohol/drug use and stress were significantly stronger among female and United States-born subjects. Study findings also suggest differences between Puerto Rican and other Latino alcohol users in the United States. The main focus of this study was not to test hypotheses but to help generate hypotheses. For this reason, after exploring the associations between a number of variables, the book concludes by providing research ideas and by recommending 12 hypotheses to be tested in future research.


“This book represents a highly relevant and valuable contribution to the understanding of alcohol abuse among Puerto Ricans in the United States. It describes the role alcohol consumption plays in the lives of Puerto Ricans who were born in the United States mainland as well as those who have migrated from Puerto Rico. More specifically, the study explores the relationships between the acculturation experience of Puerto Ricans, their levels of stress, and their alcohol use … This study focuses on Puerto Ricans while raising questions about societal attitudes and conditions that challenge the helping professions in the areas of practice and research. Furthermore, the study provides recommendations for social work intervention and suggests a series of hypotheses that could be tested in future studies.

The primary purpose of this study is to provide insights on the phenomena of acculturation, stress and substance abuse among a sample of Puerto Ricans living in the United States that may facilitate and motivate more rigorous research. The study incorporates an excellent review of the related literature covering topics such as addictions, Puerto Ricans and the nature and measurement of acculturation. The research questions, analysis and findings of this study contribute to a slowly growing body of knowledge. At the same time, it is hoped that its findings will help inform future research that could ultimately impact this generation and generations to come.

This study attempted to explore the relationship between the distress often associated with adaptation to a new culture and specific drinking attitudes and practices. A particular focus was the comparison of those born in Puerto Rico and living in the United States with those born and raised in the United States. The study was able to identify associations between acculturation and the social cores of tension and conflict.

Every effort must be made to ensure that the findings of studies like this are properly disseminated. Empirical knowledge should be used to impact the social policy-making process, the training of helping professionals, and social and behavioral research. Lastly, we must assist accrediting and licensing organizations in developing criteria and questions pertinent to the causes of disparities in access to critically needed human services. This would contribute to cultural competence in the licensing of the helping professions and accreditation of human services organizations. This study represents a step in the right direction. It possesses an excellent literature review, significant findings which add to a growing body of knowledge, and a set of hypotheses to be tested in future research. As a result, it contributes to the development of a meaningful research agenda for the next few years. We owe a debt of gratitude to the pioneering efforts of every researcher.” – (from the Foreword) Juan Ramos, Former Senior Advisor to the Director of the National Institute on Mental Health

“Drs. Diaz and Watts are to be commended for writing this book. This book represents an important step forward in recognizing the deleterious consequences of one form of substance abuse among one, specific Latino group in the United States. The subject of substance abuse has generally overlooked alcohol even though this drug plays a significant role in causing numerous social problems. This book is progressive in its outlook and has a tremendous amount to offer both the practice field and the scholarship on this topic.” – Melvin Delgado, Professor of Social Work & Chair of Macro Practice, Boston University School of Social Work

“In this carefully researched book, Diaz and Watts explore chronic stresses facing the U.S. Puerto Rican community, with a particular focus on acculturation patterns. This topic is important because, relative to other rapidly growing Latino groups, Puerto Ricans in the United States face disproportionately high rates of poverty, family dysfunction, substance abuse, and alcoholism. Given the many gaps in our understanding of alcohol abuse and its psycho-social context within Latino communities, the authors provide important new knowledge of the challenges facing Puerto Rican Americans. Substance abuse counselors, social workers, psychologists, and medical professionals will benefit from the insights surrounding acculturation stresses within the Puerto Rican community – stresses that likely mirror the assimilation patterns of other Latino immigrant groups as well.” – Curtis VanderWaal, Professor of Social Work, Andrews University

Table of Contents

List of Tables
Foreword by Dr. Juan Ramos
1. Introduction
2. Conceptual Framework and Related Literature
3. Methodology
4. Discussion