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[ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

Caught in cultural crossfire: Sexual expression among youth of Mexican heritage

Susan L. Dreisbach, PhD, Program in Health and Behavioral Science, University of Colorado at Denver, Campus Box 188, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364, 303 556 6796, susan.dreisbach@cudenver.edu

Adolescent sexual expression does not occur in a vacuum. To the contrary, sexual behavior reflects not only the dramatic physical and cognitive changes of puberty, but also the influence of social interactions, cultural norms, and public policy. For youth of Mexican heritage who live in the United States, the complexity of sexual expression is compounded by a world colored by three cultures that hold strong and often competing values concerning how sex and gender should play out in everyday life. How do these youth integrate the sexual scripts, attitudes, and values of traditional Mexican culture, the culture of the American Dream, and the commercial youth culture into their sexual decision- making and subsequent sexual behaviors? Systematic in-depth interviews with 48 male and female Mexicano/a and Chicano/a teens ages 15 through 19 bring to light the ways in which inconsistencies and outright conflicts among sexual scripts and life goal scripts of these three cultures contribute to ambiguity in sexual decision-making and sexual behaviors. The stories of these youth also illustrate how integrating contemporary cultural values often threatens traditional social attachments and contributes to a break in family ties that can negatively impact academic achievement, economic attainment, and early childbearing. The findings suggest that youth, families, communities, public health providers, and policy makers must acknowledge and address the realities of conflicting cultural values, sexual scripts, and life goal scripts in order to assure healthy sexual expression and social success for youth of Mexican heritage living in the United States.

Learning Objectives:

  • Following the presentation, participants will be able to

    Keywords: Hispanic Youth, Adolescent Health

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:
    I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

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