Abstract: Traditional Gender Roles and the Disappearing Gender Gap in Substance Use Among Spanish Adolescents (Society for Prevention Research 27th Annual Meeting)

284 Traditional Gender Roles and the Disappearing Gender Gap in Substance Use Among Spanish Adolescents

Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Stephen S. Kulis, PhD, Cowden Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Flavio F. Marsiglia, PhD, Center Director, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Cristina Villalba, PhD, Professor, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain
David Alarcon, PhD, Professor, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain
Isotta MacFadden, PhD, Program Coordinator, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain
Purpose: As in many other societies, Spain has witnessed a rapidly closing gender gap in substance use as rates of use for women approach those of men. The narrowing gap is often attributed to declining conformity to traditional gender roles (TGRs). Socialization into TGRs has been viewed as promoting male substance use but discouraging it among females. This study investigated TGRs as predictors of narrowing gender differences in substance use among Spanish adolescents.

Methods: We collected questionnaire data from students in four public middle schools in low income neighborhoods of Seville (n=259, Mage=14.7, 51% female). Outcomes included recent and lifetime frequency of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and inhalants use, recent heavy episodic drinking and recent intoxication. A 5-item TGRs scale assessed endorsement of a polarized gender division of family labor and power, e.g. that men should be the breadwinners, women should take care of home and children, and defer to their husband’s decisions (Cronbach’s alpha=.75). We tested whether there were gender differences in adherence to TGRs or in use of substances with t-tests. Controlling for age and SES, separate regression analyses by gender and gender interaction models tested whether TGRs predicted outcomes differently for males and females.

Results: Although males reported significantly more adherence to TGRs than females, only small minorities (< 5%) of both genders endorsed TGRs strongly. Except for marijuana, which males used more frequently than females (and the difference persisted after controlling for TGRs), there were no gender differences in any of the other substance use outcomes. Conformity to TGRs predicted greater use of all four substances, but in substance-specific and gendered patterns. For females, TGRs predicted greater recent and lifetime frequency of use of alcohol and tobacco, as well as less lifetime (but not recent) use of inhalants. For males, but not females, TGRs predicted more heavy episodic drinking and intoxication, and more use of inhalants.

Conclusions: Results for males are consistent with arguments that polarized gender role expectations for men increase male adolescents’ behavioral risk-taking. For females, TGRs did not provide protection from substance use, but instead, were associated with increased use of licit substances. Results may reflect persisting TGRs in Spanish families, conflicting gender role messages for females, and gender segregation in exposure to substance offers and opportunities. Implications for prevention include the need to design interventions that recognize shifting TGR norms, provide decision-making alternatives to those promoted by TGRs, and help youth navigate gendered behavioral expectations.