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Are Latino teens sexual risk takers? It's complicated, researcher says
Date:2/22/2010

eir studies," she said.

So what do we know about Latino sexuality and risk taking among teenagers? For one thing, no one really knows how much the traditional gender role attributes of machismo and marianismoidealizing the Virgin Maryactually influence today's Latino adolescents.

"In traditional Latin cultures, machismo dictates that men be virile and strong and provide for their family. In the United States, when we say macho, often we mean someone's a male chauvinist, but in most Latin cultures, this idea encompasses such positive behavior as being responsible for your family and taking care of your household," she said.

The female ideal of marianismo includes being self-sacrificing, pure, and silent. But the researcher emphasized that few studies have tried to measure the extent to which Latinos adhere to these traditional gender roles and whether cultural beliefs are linked to sexual behavior.

"Also, most research on Latino gender roles and sexuality doesn't take into account that Latin cultures have changed tremendously over the last 20 years as a result of globalization, migration, and changing norms," she added.

Immigrant status also plays a role in teens' sexual risk taking. "For first-generation Latinos, recent immigration seems to be a protective factor. Families tend to bring the practices they had in their home country, and over time there's a shift as they become acculturated. For girls, being an immigrant is protective because Latin American countries are typically more conservative about sexuality than the United States is," she said.

For boys, the opposite pattern may be true because in many Latin American countries men have more freedom to explore their sexuality. In the United States, they might shift to a more conservative pattern, she said.

Scholars in multiple disciplines have described a pattern called the "immigrant paradox" in which immigrants have better outcomes than their U.S.-
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Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer
p-pickle@illinois.edu
217-244-2827
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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