Acculturation and violence in minority adolescents: A review of the empirical literature

Paul R. Smokowski, Corinne David-Ferdon, Nancy Stroupe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Although seminal reviews have been published on acculturation and mental health in adults and adolescents, far less is known about how acculturation influences adolescent interpersonal and self-directed violence. This article aims to fill this gap by providing a comprehensive review of research linking acculturation and violence behavior for adolescents of three minority populations: Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander (A/PI), and American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN). The preponderance of evidence from studies on Latino and A/PI youth indicate that higher levels of adolescent assimilation (i.e., measured by time in the United States, English language use, U.S. cultural involvement, or individualism scales) were a risk factor for youth violence. Ethnic group identity or culture-of-origin involvement appear to be cultural assets against youth violence with supporting evidence from studies on A/PI youth; however, more studies are needed on Latino and AI/AN youth. Although some evidence shows low acculturation or cultural marginality to be a risk factor for higher levels of fear, victimization, and being bullied, low acculturation also serves as a protective factor against dating violence victimization for Latino youth. An important emerging trend in both the Latino and, to a lesser extent, A/PI youth literature shows that the impact of acculturation processes on youth aggression and violence can be mediated by family dynamics. The literature on acculturation and self-directed violence is extremely limited and has conflicting results across the examined groups, with high acculturation being a risk factor for Latinos, low acculturation being a risk factor of A/PI youth, and acculturation-related variables being unrelated to suicidal behavior among AI/AN youth. Bicultural skills training as a youth violence and suicide prevention practice is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-263
Number of pages49
JournalJournal of Primary Prevention
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Acculturation
  • Adolescents
  • Aggression
  • Health disparities
  • Minority youth
  • Suicide
  • Youth violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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