178931 Migration to the U.S. and attitudes towards risk and uncertainty among Mexican adolescents

Monday, October 27, 2008: 9:40 AM

Christine Tucker, MPH , North Carolina Direct Services, East Coast Migrant Head Start, Raleigh, NC
Maria del Pilar Torres, MA , Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, Cuernavaca, Mexico
Alexandra Minnis, PhD, MPH , Women's Global Health Imperative, Research Triangle Institute, San Francisco, CA
Sergio Bautista-Arredondo, MSc , Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, Cuernavaca, Mexico
Background: Few studies have investigated migration and risk behaviors among adolescents. However, research in adult populations has documented higher prevalence rates of risk behaviors among migrants. To better understand the relationship between migration and risk behavior, this qualitative study was conducted to explore how individual attitudes towards risk and uncertainty influence migration decisions to the U.S. among Mexican youth.

Methods: In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with male and female Mexican youth ages 15 to 24 (n=47) from two communities in Mexico: one with a high and one with a low density of U.S. migration. Half of the participants were return migrants and half were non-migrants with relatives in the U.S. Two interviewers elicited information on adolescents' demographic background, decision to migrate or not to migrate, experiences with migration, and participation in risk behaviors.

Results: Community of origin, in addition to age and gender, was an important factor in the decision to migrate or not migrate. Risk taking was influenced by the underlying set of opportunities which differed by community. In both communities, attitudes towards risk and participation in risk behaviors differed between return migrants and non-migrants. Migrant youth expressed positive attitudes towards risk and uncertainty and more participation in risky behaviors compared to non-migrants.

Conclusion: Youth migrants may be more vulnerable because of both their young age and their attitudes towards risk and uncertainty. Findings from this qualitative study call for further research on attitudes towards risk and uncertainty as a potential selection mechanism affecting immigrant health and behavior.

Learning Objectives:
Describe one potential explanation for the Hispanic paradox linking individual attitudes towards risk and uncertainty to the decision to migrate and subsequent health behavior. Identify contextual factors at the community level, particularly migration density in the community of origin, which may influence individual attitudes towards risk and uncertainty. Recognize the unique vulnerability of adolescent Mexican migrants because of their young age and higher tendency to take risks and discuss the public health implications of these findings.

Keywords: Migrant Health, Risky Behaviors

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I co-conducted the data collection and analysis and am in the process of writing up these results for publication. I do not have any conflict of interests.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.