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UH Researchers Examine Consequences of Gang LifeLongitudinal Study Follows San Antonio Gang Members into Young Adulthood

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February 11, 2009-Houston-
The University of Houston Center for Drug and Social Policy Research (CDSPR) has been awarded a $2.4 million grant by the National Institutes for Health to study the long-term consequences of adolescent gang membership among Mexican Americans.

The funds will be awarded over the next four years.

"This is a follow-up to a study we conducted 10 years ago with 160 gang members in west San Antonio," said Avelardo Valdez, principal investigator and director of CDSPR. "This kind of longitudinal study is one of the first to look at the consequences of being a Mexican American young man engaging in a gang lifestyle."

The study, co-directed by assistant professor Alice Cepeda, will examine what has happened to these young men, now in their 20s. It is expected that some are incarcerated, unemployed or deceased. Some may be dealing with serious health issues like hepatitis or HIV/AIDS because of injecting-drug use and/or unprotected sexual activity with multiple partners.

"We think that those who divorced themselves from their peers will have done better. Those with a regular partner will have done better. Those in the labor force will have done better," Valdez said. "Some of these young men will have very positive outcomes, and we'll want to know how they did it. Maybe their answers contain interventions that we haven't heard of yet."

Valdez and researchers with CDSPR have conducted extensive research on gangs, drugs, violence and sex workers in South Texas and the U.S.-Mexico border. He says conclusions from this study will aid in the development of significant intervention and prevention programs and policies. Valdez expects to follow this same group through adulthood.

"We are excited about this study because there is little research in this area despite the fact that Mexican Americans are the fastest-growing population in the U.S.," Valdez said. "This will begin to explain the social trajectory of Mexican Americans and why it is not similar to other social populations."

CDSPR is housed in the UH Graduate College of Social Work and is conducting several National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) research projects. Among them: substance abuse among the evacuees of Hurricane Katrina, high-risk drug and related risk behaviors among Hispanic immigrant workers in New Orleans and at-risk Hispanic gangs, and the long-term consequences for HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections.

For more information about the UH Center for Drug and Social Policy Research, visit www.uh.edu/cdspr/index.html.

For more information about the UH Graduate College of Social Work, visit www.sw.uh.edu/main/home.php.

About the University of Houston The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 36,000 students.

For more information about UH visit the university's Newsroom at www.uh.edu/admin/media/newsroom

Categories: Health, Research