Examining substance abuse, mental health problems, and deviant behavior among delinquent female Hispanic youth in a west Texas border community

Jeanette Cuellar, University of Texas at El Paso


Although there are over 17 million Hispanic females living in the United States, according to U.S. Census data, social science research has paid scant attention to this group. This inattention is problematic because the structural positions Hispanic females occupy and the cultural factors they experience place them at risk for a number of adverse outcomes, many of which, such as delinquency, mental health problems, and drug abuse, may be inter-related.^ Hispanic females, like Hispanics in general, tend to live in poverty and in conditions associated with poverty, such as crowded substandard housing, high unemployment, crime victimization, poor educational opportunities, and limited access to healthcare (Zayas 1987). In addition to these structural problems, Hispanic female youth may also be affected by cultural factors specific to this population, such as cultural identification, acculturation, culture conflict, and sex differentiation (Strait 1999: 94–99). Norms of Hispanics such as machismo and marianismo are particularly illustrative. Machismo suggests that males should be the protector of their home, be willing to take risks to prove their manhood, and are entitled to more behavioral options than females who, according to marianismo, are supposed to be submissive, chaste, and self-sacrificing, mirroring the qualities of the Virgin Mary (Galanti 2003; Gil and Vasquez cited in Strait 1999; Strait 1999; Zayas 1987). The corresponding value of familismo promotes “loyalty, reciprocity, and solidarity within the immediate family and extended family,” (Galanti 2003:181). While cultural values such as these might serve to insulate Hispanic females from problems like drug abuse, research on this topic tells a different story, suggesting that these norms may work to disempower Hispanic females, leading to feelings of frustration, anxiety, and depression that may, in turn, lead to more drug abuse, mental health problems, and delinquency. (Abstract shortened by UMI.) ^

Subject Area

Women's Studies|Sociology, General

Recommended Citation

Cuellar, Jeanette, "Examining substance abuse, mental health problems, and deviant behavior among delinquent female Hispanic youth in a west Texas border community" (2005). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1427715.